Friday, December 18, 2015

Surbhi Singh - Basti villager’s plant trees mission might be the kind of drive that can prevent climate change

One of the key clauses of the landmark Paris climate deal focusses on preservation of forests. The last time India took a serious note on tree plantation was after Sundarlal Bahuguna’s Chipko movement in the 1970s. The concepts of afforestation and re-forestation, though not alien, found currency in country. But can forest protection and climate issues be the headache of governments and ‘tree-hugging’ NGOs alone? Mativar Singh, a retired teacher of a village school in Uttar Pradesh’s Basti district, proves that individual effort do matter in the larger scheme of things. For Singh, planting trees is like tending to his own fragile family and therefore his primary responsibility. His contributions to the environment may have gone unnoticed, but it gives him satisfaction.

A little over 60 years ago, Mativar began planting seeds in his village. As years passed by, the fondness for his leafy family grew and he decided to dedicate his life to planting as many trees as he could. In fact, he began planting trees while he was in Class VII, but it was in 1954 that it became his life mission. Mativar recounts the day when his elder sister was asked to get mangoes from their neighbour. She was chided and chased away. When Mativar heard of this he decided that he would plant so many mango trees that whosoever wanted the fruit, would not return disappointed. He started with 150 saplings. 

Then in 1967, when his property was partitioned, he planted 50-60 Mahua trees (an Indian tropical tree scientifically known as Madhuca longifolia) in his bit of land. Now that tract of land has over 5,000 trees from mango to jackfruit, guava to eucalyptus. He goes to the orchard everyday and plucks fruits or collects fallen ones and plants them in the nursery. In due course when the sapling is ready he shifts them to the orchard.


Along the Manorama river, Mativar Singh has planted Peepal and Banyan trees so that travellers can rest at the banks of the river. He also loves to see bird nests in these trees. Mativar feels very happy looking at his garden. “Sages come and rest in my garden. They praise God…I feel immensely satisfied looking at them enjoying the benefits of my tree,” says the septuagenarian. He says that trees are such beautiful creations of God and grow selflessly for others. “They never ask us for anything in return but are around always for us.” 

Mativar’s mission in life is to continue planting as many trees so that the coming generation will reap benefit from them. When anyone ever asks for a sapling, he is more than willing to give them free of charge. While our government is upbeat over the Paris Climate Change summit outcome, it is imperative that India moves beyond conservation to sustainable management of our natural resources. Individual effort is what we need to harvest at the moment.