In two decades, militant outfits had chopped off much of the forest cover in western Assam to trade the timber for guns. But it took just 300 villagers in less than 24 hours this weekend to begin the afforestation process.
By 3 pm on Saturday, the villagers of Choutaki under North Salmara sub-division in Bongaigaon district planted over 2.84 lakh saplings of fruit and timber-yielding trees on 34 hectares of unused government land to set a new world record.
Villagers near Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu had created the earlier record in 2005 by planting 2.54 lakh trees. Officially that record stands, as observers representing the Guinness Book of World Records would take time to register the new feat.
“We had been planning to re-green some 90 hectares of near-barren land off NH 31B under the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme,” sub-divisional officer (civil) M.S. Manivannan told HT. “We decided to target 34 hectares kissing a small river named Kunjiya,” he said.
Manivannan said the idea behind bettering the TN record was to kill two birds with one stone ensure employment for the local people while making a green investment for them to reap in future.
“This was the very reason why we planted 24 species of fruit trees like jackfruit and orange and timber-yielding trees like teak. Many of these plants will start yielding additional income for the villagers in three-four years,” he said. In TN, only one variety of plant casuarinas was planted.
According to district officials, the bid to place the name of the nondescript village in the record books encouraged the people to get cracking at 3 pm on Friday. They took a break at 6.30 pm and resumed the planting exercise early Saturday morning.