With early sunlight flourishing over the hills and valleys and birds in the surrounding forests singing to the rhythm of cool breeze blowing over the trees and bushes, today is definitely a special day for Bhutan. Coinciding with the anniversary of the coronation of His Majesty the 4th King and Social Forestry Day, Bhutan has created another new page in history. With blessings from God on this auspicious occasion of Saga Dawai Duezang (Parinirvana of Lord Buddha), 100 Bhutanese volunteers have planted 49,672 tree-saplings in one hour and set a new Guinness World Record for Bhutan.
It’s great to know that we have beat the current record set by India in 2012 by planting 40,885 saplings in the State of Assam, and for a small country like Bhutan, this achievement means a lot. Planting 49,672 saplings in one hour by 100 people is certainly not an easy task. It means each individual has planted about 497 saplings in one hour which is a huge contribution. But now the biggest task is how to ensure that all the saplings survive. Every year on this day since 1985, we have been planting numerous trees in the country to commemorate Social Forestry Day and if all the trees we have planted so far had survived, we would have been the greenest country on the planet. But the sad thing is that we hardly bother to take care of the saplings once they have been planted. The saplings are in a fragile stage and they would need a very good care at least for a few months until their roots become strong enough to absorb water from the underground water-tables. The timing for today’s mass plantation event seems to be quite ideal since the monsoon is just round the corner and I hope that with the rainy season starting soon, most of the saplings would successfully grow up to become healthy trees. But before the monsoon arrives here, I think somebody will be there to water the plants so that our efforts do not go in vain. I feel that the real pride should not be in the number of saplings we have planted today but the number of saplings that are going to become real trees some years later.
If all the saplings planted today could survive, it would be very lovely and romantic to look at Kuensel Phodrang in years from now. The green forests all over the hills and valleys would certainly add up to the natural beauty of the capital city and would attract more foreign tourists and visitors to the area. Forests are the main assets of our country because we have realized the importance of conserving natural resources much earlier than many countries in the world. While many countries began exploiting their forests for economic gains, our leaders believed in the sustainability of our natural resources and hence, the government kept encouraging afforestation and reforestation activities to maintain at least 60 percent of the country’s total area under forest coverage. According to Kuensel Website, it is estimated that today, the total area under forest coverage is about 80 percent, keeping aside the number of trees destroyed by forest fires and timbers extracted for constructions. So, thanks to our wise leaders and far-sighted kings who have acted on time to accumulate this much natural wealth for Bhutan. Today, we all are proud of our natural wealth that has earned us the name ‘The Champion of the Earth’. Let us continue to plant new trees likewise every year and increase our wealth for the generations to come. On this special occasion, let us also be reminded of the importance of protecting our existing forests from avoidable disasters such as fires and unnecessary or unauthorized felling of trees. I feel very sad when forest-fires destroy thousands of trees every year because I know those trees can’t be replaced easily. Therefore, I feel every individual has the responsibility to protect and promote our forests so that our children would grow up in a green environment, breathing fresh air and drinking fresh water. Ultimately, this is what defines us as the last Shangri-La of the Himalayas.