With a volunteer base of 7,000 members across the country, this Delhi-based NGO has evolved on a simple mantra of plant only that which you can preserve.
This is the story of an 11-year-old boy named Swami Parivartan, who started a hobby club with a handful of young friends in January in Pune in 1977. This hobby club later grew into a wave of community gatherings and then into a movement that would lead to the planting of 20 million trees across the country.
“Tree planting is not a ritual for the monsoon. It has to be a serious priority for the community and the government, throughout the year. We are on the brink of extinction if we do not get back our trees. Awareness is increasing day by day. But awareness has to be backed by right action,” says Swami Parivartan, aka Peepal Baba.
He started Give Me Trees as an eco-club in the same year, with a mission to preserve what was already planted. From Pune, Give Me Trees reached out to several towns and villages, and promoted the planting of the peepal tree on a large scale.
Swami Prem Parivartan, the Founder of Give Me Trees Trust, has dedicated 40 years to this initiative. The widespread planting of peepal trees over the years earned him the title ‘Peepal Baba’ in the 1980s.
Peepal Baba’s early motivation stemmed from his childhood: in the fourth grade, he was inspired by his school teacher to plant trees, and as time passed, that became his lifelong mission.
Along with this early influence and his love for nature, the extensive deforestation in the country has always been his concern. The ever-diminishing number of peepal trees on roadsides, countryside, farms, highways, roads and forest areas, disturbed him enough to make the planting of trees the mission of his life.
“Peepal Baba has been building a large constituency of volunteers across regions who now work for the propagation and promotion of the peepal tree. His insistence on preserving and serving each tree sapling for a period of two years from the date of planting, became the mantra for his volunteers. The more people understood his work, the more people joined him,” says a volunteer from Give Me Trees.
Give Me Trees has planted more than 20 million trees across the country out of which more than 12 million have survived. This work has been done in the past 40 years. Most of the trees planted are in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Other major states for the planting of trees have been Delhi NCR, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Maharashtra.
The organisation has planted and preserved trees in almost every state of India.
Give Me Trees primarily plants shade trees also known as forest or native trees. Only trees with good foliage and large canopy are preferred for the simple reason that they are the backbone of any environment conservation programme. Peepal and neem trees are the preferred varieties since they have proved to be easy to plant and preserve.
Survival of trees depends on planting and preserving those varieties which are native or indigenous to that region. Only then will the trees survive and blend into the ecology of the region. Oaks are preferred for the mountain terrains, peepal for the countryside, and open forests, neem for urban spaces such as roads, parks, and schools. The basic thumb rule is to always plant native varieties, says Peepal Baba.
While planting indigenous varieties is of utmost importance, providing training to the residents and the communities of the place is also considered equally significant by the NGO. School students to retired army officers, bureaucrats to shopkeepers, teenagers to housewives, all are given practical training and introduced to hands-on approach towards maintaining the tree saplings in their areas. ‘Survival’ reports are sought from volunteers and teams working across the country.
For nearly 34 years, Give Me Trees was a movement for nature lovers, and it became a legal entity after its registration as a charitable trust in October, 2011.
“The larger goal is to create an action-oriented volunteer constituency of those who love the natural world. Those who don’t just express their love for nature and its constituents, but also do something concrete, tangible, measurable in a way that impacts not just this generation but several generations to come in the future,” says a member of the trust.
Today, Give Me Trees is one of the largest tree planting and preservation initiatives in the country, with over 7,000 volunteers making up this effort. It has evolved on a simple mantra of planting only that which one can preserve. The aim to ‘bring back your trees’ has appealed to its volunteers and motivated the community to preserve their saplings like ‘children’.
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