From the land of Sunderlal Bahuguna, the founder of the Chipko movement in 1970s to save the Himalayan forests, another tree lover has emerged. Jagdish Bagla has been credited with planting 3.2 lakh trees in a span of 27 years. It has been long and arduous journey for Bagla, who was awarded the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar by President Pratibha Patil on Thursday.
Drawing inspiration from Bahuguna and Sanjay Gandhi, Bagla started planting trees by the roadside when he was 23. “I used to find the heat in Dehra Dun unbearable whereas walking in my village was a soothing affair. The difference was trees. I asked the forest department to give me trees and a tree guard for roadside plantation. They provided me trees without any tree guard. I planted the trees but most of them were destroyed by people,” he recalled.
The failed project helped him discover his love for trees. He went back to the forest department officials with a proposal — provide him land to plant trees. “They obliged. But with a barren land of 27 acres,” he recalled. At that moment, many of his friends discouraged him from taking up the venture, telling him he would fail. He did, initially. “Many of the trees just dried up,” he said.
But he kept recharging the soil and planting trees. And, after working for over a decade, Bagla has given Dehra Dun a man-made dense forest.
In the midst of developing this forest, Bagla would visit nearby villages with a message to plant trees and save the environment. “I just asked for food and shelter. In the hills, everyone is happy to oblige,” he said. His modus operandi was simple – inspire village youth to plant trees and take care of them.
His experience of 24 years gave Bagla the confidence to make an offer at Vigyan Bhawan: “Call me to your village or locality and give me food and shelter. I will ensure that trees are planted and they survive in your neighbourhood.”
With Bagla, Amrita Patel got the environment award for setting up the National Tree Growers Cooperative Federation in Gujarat, and Sant Gadge Baba Amrawati University for planting over six lakh trees in 285 hectares in and around Amrawati district of Maharashtra.
The President asked the government to bring in a national land use policy for ensuring sustainable growth.