Van Mahotsav is an annual tree-planting movement in India, which began in 1950. The name Van Mahotsava means "the festival of trees". It has gained significant national importance and, every year, millions of saplings are planted across India in observation of Van Mahotsav week.
Van Mahotsav festival was started in 1950 by Kulapati Dr.K M Munshi, then the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food to create enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees. It is now a week-long festival, celebrated on different days in different parts of India, but usually between 1 July to 7 July. It began after a flourishing tree planting drive which was undertaken in Delhi, in which national leaders like Dr Rajendra Prasad and Jawaharlal Nehru participated. The festival was simultaneously celebrated in a number of states in India. Since then, millions of saplings of diverse species have been planted with energetic participation of local people and various agencies like the forest department. Awareness spread as the chipko movement rose in popularity as a crusade to save mother earth..
The constant felling of trees in India has been a problem for a long time, and Van Mahotsav is important in creating awareness of the issues.. According to the forest department, for every tree felled ten trees should be planted to make up for its loss.
As at 2016, tree cover of India (including forests and non-forest areas) was 23.81%. The Government of India has set a target of 33% cover by 2020. In 2015 the State Government of Assam announced that it intended to plant 25 lakh(2.5 million) trees. It said this would not only benefit the environment, but also have a direct influence on the socio-economic development of Assam, which has 70% or its people working in the agricultural sector.
The festival raises the awareness of trees among people, and highlights the need for planting and tending of trees as one of the best ways to prevent global warming and reduce pollution. Tree planting during the festival serves various purposes, such as providing alternative fuel, increasing production of food resources, creating shelter-belts around fields to increase productivity, providing food for cattle, offering shade and decorative landscapes, reducing drought and helping to prevent soil erosion, etc. It helps spread awareness about the harm caused by the cutting down of trees, and it is expected that every citizen of India will plant a sapling in the Van Mahotsav week.
Planting of trees also serves other purposes like providing alternative fuel options, food for cattle, helps in soil conservation and more than anything offers a natural aesthetic beauty. Planting of trees also helps to avoid soil erosion which may cause floods. Also, planting trees can be extremely effective in slowing down global warming and trees also help in reducing pollution as they make the air cleaner.
People celebrate Van Mahotsava by planting trees or saplings in homes, offices, schools and colleges. Novel promotions like free circulation of trees are also taken up by various organizations and volunteers. In general, native trees are planted as they most readily adapt to local conditions, integrate into eco-systems, and have a high survival rate and help support local biodiversity. State Governments and civic bodies supply saplings to schools, colleges and academic institutions, NGOs and welfare organizations for planting trees. July is the onset of the monsoon season in India - a time when tree planting is most likely to be effective.
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- Staff reporter (6 July 2015). "Govt plans to plant 25 lakh saplings". The Assam Tribune. Retrieved 4 December 2016.