Breaking Records the conservation way Pictorial Highlights
Planting trees can be a lot of fun – especially if you do it to break a world record!
The Guinness Book of World Records had India holding the record for the most trees planted in a specific amount of time: 447,874 saplings. The Pakistan Wetlands Programme, or PWP, knew how badly mangrove trees are being depleted in the Indus Delta. Bring the two together, and you have the obvious answer.
Why not plant mangroves, a whole lot of them, and help replenish the vast mangrove forests that used to cover Pakistan 's coastline for miles and miles? There used to be eight species at Partition in what is now Pakistan . Local communities had to use mangroves for fuelwood because they had no alternatives for decades, so the mangroves were cut down and not replanted for decades. Then, when Pakistan started running out of water and the Indus River started drying up, its delta suffered, and since mangroves need a steady supply of both fresh and sea water, what mangroves were left started dying.
Now, there are only three species left, and they're fast disappearing.
So Pakistan Wetlands Programme, in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and the Sindh Forest Department, decided to hold a tree plantation drive at Keti Bandar, in Sindh. Actually, the Programme decided to plant trees on more than three hundred hectares..!
July 15 was chosen for the great event. On the island of Khedewari in the delta, three hundred volunteers got together to plant mangrove saplings.
Working in groups of three, they started early in the morning. It was grueling work – you have to bend and dig and lift the heavy sapling, which is sensitive so you have to be really careful. Then you have to make sure it's properly planted in the ground and since mangroves live in places where there is lots of water, you can imagine how demanding it was!
But it was so much fun. Imagine, if you can, a sandy shore where the sea just touches the land and the river water meets the sea in channels all around you. A cool breeze from the distant horizon ruffles your hair. People around you race to plant the saplings in time. You're all united in this great purpose to restock the grand mangrove forests that swathed the delta in their beautiful green bounty a couple of generations ago…
Schoolchildren were there as well as dignitaries, and people from the media and the fishing communities who live all around the delta. PWP was ready with an information desk to tell them everything they wanted to know. Marvi Menon, MNA, was there, as well as Dr Tahir Qureshi from the World Conservation Union . Hamidullah Jan Afridi, Pakistan 's Environment Minister; Kamran Lashari, Secretary Environment; Dr Iqbal Sial, Inspector General Forest ; and Sasi Palijo, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Sindh were there as well.
And then, there was Adil Ahmed, Guinness Book of World Records Adjudicator. He would decide if we had broken the record, or not!
As the day wore on, folk singers appeared with their musical instruments. It was like a huge picnic, or a party, where you had a lot of fun and worked very hard at the same time.
Towards sundown, everyone put down their shovels and straightened their aching backs. Adil Ahmed went off with a team to count the saplings.
When the team got back, everyone waited with bated breath to hear the result.
The volunteers had planted 541, 176 mangrove saplings! Pakistan had broken the record!
This means so much for the delta. It means that a forest has been planted, a great carbon sink that will help in the fight against global warming.
Oh, and we beat India at the record. Cheers, neighbor! Why don't you plant another forest, and then we'll plant another too, then it'll be your turn, then ours… we'll end up replanting all the forests in the subcontinent this way, which is kind of like the aim anyway!