Environment: Bhutanese from all walks of life came together to plant about 169,826 saplings on Social Forestry Day yesterday.

In a remarkable feat, 100 women volunteers planted 49,718 saplings at Takila in Lhuntse.

Desuups planted about 50,000 saplings, at least 1,500 saplings in each dzongkhag.

About 200 volunteers, including students and staff of the Royal Monetary Authority planted about 10,000 saplings above Samarzingkha in Thimphu on a 12-hectare land.

Besides communities and individuals, foresters across the country planted about 60,000 saplings.

Members of Parliament joined in planting 108 saplings near Debsi yesterday.

The Mountain Hazelnut Company also distributed 1,155 free hazelnut saplings to 12 schools.

In keeping with the theme, “Plant and Nurture Trees for a Green and Healthy Environment,” and in celebration of the Birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the nation launched a mission to fulfill the World Earth Day theme to plant 7.8 billion trees by 2020.

The nation came together to plant 108 saplings of five significant species a day after the Birth of HRH The Gyalsey. A month later, the people planted 108,000 saplings.

His Majesty The King, His Holiness The Je Khenpo and the Zhung Dratshang planted 400 saplings at Thangzona, Punakha on the occasion of the naming ceremony of HRH The Gyalsey.

Social Forestry Day first began in 1979 with a Royal Decree from His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. His Majesty said, “The participation of the local community is the key to successful conservation and utilisation of the forest resources”.

Social forestry activities then were limited to the distribution of saplings to households to be planted on registered land. However, the initiative failed due to unspecified ownership rights over trees planted on private land.

The primary objective was to promote tree planting and to create environmental awareness among the people.

According to agriculture ministry’s 2014 report, schools and institutions across the country planted trees covering about 180 acres with about 120,000 saplings and trees between 1985 and 2013.

It was estimated that roughly 50 percent of the plantation area within school compounds was lost to the development activities. The survival rate of the plantation within the schools was comparatively poor due to lack of care and maintenance during the long winter vacations.

Since 2009, thromdes across the country planted saplings in about 13.5 acres, 70 percent of which has survived.

“The only way forward to make a climate-smart environment is to have more trees on the planet,” Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said. “The saplings we are planting today will contribute to meeting the sacred provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan of maintaining 60 percent forest cover for all times to come and ensuring an environment friendly, healthier and safer future for all our citizens.”

Tshering Palden