NEW DELHI: When politicians act irresponsibly, rope in celebrities for a cause is an old government mantra. This year it’s all about celebs going green. Last year, the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s (MoEF) tree plantation drive on World Environment Day June 5 involving MPs flopped because 80 per cent of the saplings were dumped at Ashoka Hotel. This time, Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar has decided instead to reach out to sportspersons—including cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, tennis player Sania Mirza and badminton player Saina Nehwal, among others—to spread the message of clean and green environment to youth in the country through their sporting icons.
Javadekar has taken a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign where he roped in famous personalities like industrialist Anil Ambani, actors Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Kamal Haasan as the nominees to carry forward the clean Indian mission. The idea was to reach out to as many youngsters, and Javadekar decided that sportspersons would be the best option as their fan following runs in millions. The NDA government has launched a Green India Mission that aims at enhancing the forest cover from 24 per cent now to 33 per cent at a cost of Rs 46,000 crore by 2020.
Tendulkar, a nominated Rajya Sabha member, has agreed to launch the plantation drive in Mumbai while Kohli is expected to plant a sapling in Delhi and Dhoni may start a green drive in Ranchi, his hometown. The MoEF has written to several sportspersons, including Hyderabad-based Mirza and Nehwal, and is awaiting confirmation from some, depending on their availability on June 5. Each of these players will be planting saplings in their hometowns and will appeal to people to do the same.
Last year, the MoEF sent saplings to all MPs with a message from Javadekar in their mother tongues. According to ministry officials, it was a last-minute decision and many employees worked overnight to tag the slip to ensure that names of MPs were not wrong. Javadekar had handed over a sapling to the prime minister on June 5, 2014.
“The problem was that most MPs were staying at Ashoka Hotel as they had not been allotted houses after the government formation on May 26. So, 80 per cent of the sapling were loaded in a truck and sent to the hotel. We don’t even know if they survived. The whole exercise has led to so much chaos that this time it was decided not to send saplings to anyone but encourage people to plant trees themselves,” says a senior ministry official.
Javadekar has also appealed to all central ministries to encourage employees to plant trees in their office premises while MPs and MLAs have been asked to reach out to people in their constituencies. Stating that there was no forest land available, the minister said that saplings will be planted on government land that has not been compounded and encroached upon.
Other activities planned include a musical concert by Panchtatva, celebrating the five elements of nature, awareness drives and administering of green pledges in schools and colleges.
Also planned is the launch of the Urban Forest Programme under which saplings will be planted across the country by people. According to Javadekar, the world is experiencing the impact of climate change and there is a need to mitigate the pressure created by the change.
“Since the United Nations has planned to create one billion trees in five years, India can match this if our 125 crore population plants one tree each,” says Javadekar, who inaugurated a plantation drive called Project Green Hands in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, this week.
Forest cover in India 24.01% of geographical area
Planned forest cover 33% by 2020
State with largest forest cover Madhya Pradesh (77,522 sq km)
7 States with over 75% forest
15 States with over 33% forest