With 2.5 bn trees planted, India joins UN initiative

New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) By planting 2.5 billion trees since 2007, India has joined the Plant for Planet: The Billion Tree Campaign of the UN, the environment and forests ministry announced Friday.

India has joined the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiative, which brings the international campaign’s total to over 10 billion planted trees worldwide, secretary in the ministry Vijai Sharma said in Nairobi.

‘India is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and is among the largest consumers of wood products. While socio-economic pressures on the country’s forests are tremendous, the government is clearly anxious to find solutions,’ said a UNEP statement released here.

Almost a third of the planted forests in Asia, mostly in China and India, have served the purpose of environmental protection, the statement said.

UNEP lauded India’s efforts that it had instituted a tree planting system to combat land degradation and desertification, including windbreaks and shelterbelts to protect agricultural land.

It further said the country’s ‘compensation afforestation programme under which any diversion of public forests for non-forestry purposes is compensated through afforestation in degraded or non-forested land’ was commendable.

‘It is wonderful to have India join a campaign that will give so much in terms of trees and the future of the planet,’ said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP executive director.

‘In September (2009), we thought hitting seven billion trees was an enormous achievement but with this latest planting by India, we have now reached over 10 billion in the Billion Tree Campaign that has galvanised governments and people around the world. It is this kind of solidarity that will make a difference for moving economies towards a low carbon and sustainable world,’ Steiner added.

The UNEP initiative was launched in 2006 and citizens from 170 countries have joined the Billion Tree Campaign since. China joined last September. More than half – 52 percent – of the campaign’s participants are private individuals.

Since then India has planted 6.1 billion trees, of which 2.6 billion have been contributed to the campaign.

The Billion Tree Campaign was launched jointly with the World Agroforestry Centre during the UN climate convention meeting in November 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Founder of the Green Belt Movement professor Wangari Maathai.

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