Often in our training sessions we are asked, “How can I as an individual make any difference to the way things are done if people around me don’t support me?” Since we feel very strongly about transformation one committed individual can bring about, we present to you our topic for this fortnight.
Vishweshwar Dutt Saklani, also known as ‘Vriksha Manav*’ turned 91 today but his spirit to conserve environment by planting saplings is as young as a teenager. Born on June 2, 1922, Saklani had been a freedom fighter before he took up the cause of the environment in the post-independent India. It was his unwavering commitment to save the environment that made him plant and nurture number of trees in his native Pujargoan in Saklana Patti of Tehri district.
Saklani got the idea off tree-planting in 1948 after he lost his brother, who had begun planting trees just before he passed away. Grief-stricken, Saklani used to roam the hills to seek solace. It was during this dark period that he decided to create a fitting memorial to his dear departed.
Beginning by planting acorns on a barren patch near his house, Saklani gradually moved further afield. As a part of his commitment to the environment and in memory of his brother, Saklani raised 70 nurseries and planted more than 50 lakh saplings of trees like oak, rhododendron, cedar and walnut, turning an area of 120 hectares in Pujargoan into a lush green forest. He, thus, named this forest ‘Nagendra Dutt Saklani Van*’.
Saklani’s labour of love has not only made him a more serene man, he’s brought life back in its myriad form to his area. Hillsides, once denuded by indiscriminate timber- feeling and quarrying have become green. Thanks to the trees having taken firm root, the soils of terraced fields have stabilized and once-dry streams are flowing again. The villagers’ traditional sources of fodder and fuel have been restored, and even birds have returned to the area. In recognition of his amazing achievements, the government gave Saklani the prestigious Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra award in 1986.
Saklani’s zeal of plant trees on every barren patch of land earlier brought him in conflict with uncomprehending villagers and officious bureaucrats. But his transparent sincerity and the benefits of his work gradually won people over, inspiring other individuals and organizations in the region to take up their own tree- planting programmes.
For Saklani, a lot remains to be done. “If you don’t cover the land with trees,” he warns, “the soil will get washed away and then there will be no more land left- for you, me, or anyone.” He firmly believes that every Indian must at least plant one sapling on the occasion of birth, wedding or even a death in his family. He said it was important to save the environment.
Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh June 2012
*Van (Hindi) means a forest
*Vriksha Manav (Hindi) means The Tree Man