Yangchen C Rinzin  

Almost five years after massive campaigns to plant trees at Kuenselphodrang, Thimphu, to mark several historical events in the country, not all saplings are showing signs of maturing into trees.

About 5,200 saplings were planted in 2016, and more than 49,000 in 2015 on a 25-acre of land. More than 100 people volunteered to plant trees and were supposed to nurture them.  Most saplings died or are struggling to grow today.

At the plantation site, there are sign boards showing the name of agencies, individuals and contact numbers of those who planted the saplings and took ownership,  but many are without the saplings.

People hoisted a placard near saplings bearing the name and telephone number of the planters

The boards are worn out and some covered under bushes. It was learnt the planters were supposed to call individuals and agencies if the saplings needed attention.

In the area, a 10-acre land was also identified to create a Happiness Garden with the idea that at least one person from every country in the world will plant a tree in Bhutan. The trees in the garden look withered. Many are overgrown with bushes.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) donated a water tank near the garden. It has gone missing.

Foresters say planting a sapling is only 10 percent of the work, and 90 percent depends on nurturing the saplings. “This is what is lacking in many Bhutanese volunteers today,” a forester said.

They said some of the planters have not visited the site even once after they planted and some do not even remember their plant’s location exactly.

However, in an effort to revive the saplings, Snowman Race secretariat, TCB and volunteers have led an initiative to nurture trees in the Happiness Garden. Launched on February 21, the initiative is also a part of the challenge for climate Action.

They have already nurtured more than 100 saplings.

A member, Sonam Rinchen, said that the intention behind planting the saplings was good, it lacked follow up. “There is a need for change in the entire strategy when such tree plantation is initiated.”

“While we volunteered to nurture saplings at the Happiness Garden, we realised that almost all saplings planted at Buddha Point needed attention,” he said. “This is why any Bhutanese can volunteer and come forward to adopt the saplings and nurture because the plantation is almost abandoned.”

Sonam Rinchen said that while they had initially planned to plant a  tree as a part of climate action, they realised there were so many saplings planted in various areas almost every year. “We then decided to take care of those that are already planted and we came across this place.”

The volunteers usually clear weeds or bushes that have obstructed saplings from growing, dig soils and water the saplings.

“Some of my friends wanted me to find out about their sapling. Sadly, we couldn’t even read what is written on the small boards beside the saplings,” another member said. “Some tourists also wanted to know about their saplings.”

The secretariat also plans to propose the board and have a nurturing tree club so that such an initiative is not forgotten, and saplings would continue to grow.

Sonam Rinchen said different agencies have planted tree saplings in the Kuenselphodrang area to mark some events but never checked if it was growing. “This is why we want to ensure we have committed volunteers this time.”

Anyone who wants to be part of this initiative can reach out to the Snowman Race secretariat on their Facebook page.