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When planting trees, children should understand the impact of the activity on the environment

The children take stock of what they have achieved that morning. Guided by volunteers from Kshiti Foundation and The Eco Club, forty-four children planted 100 trees – 25 each of jackfruit, mango, tamarind and mahogany.

“Our aim at the Eco Club is to get children to plant 1 lakh trees,” says Rahul Dubey, the facilitator of the activity. “We have already achieved 25,000 trees in the first few months, and we have local tree-wardens taking care of these trees, ensuring that they grow properly.”

Adds Anuradha Kavathekar, a long-time member of Kshiti, “It is important for children to see tree-planting in perspective.  Yes, it’s nice to go on an outing and plant trees – but children need to understand how this is linked to the overall environmental picture. For example, we tell children that a country needs 33  per cent forest cover to support its population. We currently have just 19 per cent forest cover. So, the activity of planting trees is vital to the welfare of our citizens.”

They have dug the earth, planted a tree, secured it and watered it. Then, they have tagged it with their names, so that it becomes ‘their’ tree. “A sense of ownership is important,” says Shashidhar Joshi of the Eco Club. “It’s my tree, my friend, and similarly, all trees belong to us and we must care for them and ensure that they are not destroyed.”

We see groups of children having competitions, about how many trees they have planted. While one child claims that his group planted 22 trees, another child promptly says, “But my group planted 25!”  They also try to outdo each other with their knowledge of how trees help the earth — reduce global warming, increase rainfall, give us food, wood and shade, and so on. They go on to discuss each of the species they have planted that day, and how these particular trees are useful.

Children can plant trees anywhere — in the neighbourhood, around their school, around the home.  What is important is that they get a sense of how significant each tree is. “An average human being uses the oxygen provided by sixteen trees during his  or her lifetime,” says Joshi. “If I plant sixteen trees, I have given back what I have taken. If I plant more, I give to others. Once children see it from this point of view, they grasp the magnitude of each tree they plant.”

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