The celebrations for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev might have concluded, but a mission to plant at least a million saplings in the first Sikh guru’s name as part of a unique project — Guru Nanak Sacred Forests (Guru Nanak Bagichi) — continues.
It was in March last year that volunteers from US-based outfit EcoSikh with the help of community participation started transforming empty patches of land into ‘Guru Nanak Sacred Forests’ by planting at least 550 saplings of native species. Since then, at least 138 such forests have already been planted (mostly in Punjab) and the work to plant more continues.
The project is based on Guru Nanak’s ‘Shabd’ (teaching): Pavan Guru, Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat (air is the Guru, water the father and the earth is our great mother). He wrote this in the Japji Sahib prayer of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, laying his vision of a world where humans should share a sensitive and inseparable bond with nature and environment.
Under the project, the saplings are planted using the Japanese technique of ‘Miyawaki’, a layered plantation technique, which as per EcoSikh volunteers, leads to 30 times denser growth of plants and hence better carbon dioxide absorption.
Till June last year, eleven ‘Guru Nanak Sacred Forests’ had been planted in India and one in Kasur of Pakistan.
Sharing the progress of the project, Pavneet Singh, assistant manager, EcoSikh, said, “We have planted 138 Guru Nanak Sacred Forests till now including the majority in Punjab. At least 80 of them are in Punjab and rest in other states such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, UT Chandigarh, Maharashtra, and J&K. In Punjab, the majority (around 27) have been planted in district Ludhiana including eight such forests in premises of Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, Nanaksar in Jhorran of Raikot. At least, 70 native species have been conserved by creating these forests in name of Guru Nanak and more than 75,000 saplings have survived.”
He further shared that Guru Nanak Sacred Forests involves landowners sparing a patch of land measuring around 200 square yards for EcoSikh volunteers to plant saplings and then regularly taking care of it later, adding that they have also planted at government establishments, including sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) office in Ludhiana’s Payal and four milk plants of Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation Limited (MILKFED Verka) at Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Patiala, and Khanna. “The fifth one will be planted at Verka milk plant in Batala. It is in the pipeline,” he added.
“We have planted at least 76,000 saplings till now through Sacred Forests and 30,000 others using the traditional method but the focus is on survival and proper care of those planted,” he said.
Ravneet Singh, South Asia manager, EcoSikh, said that under the mission to plant a million saplings in name of Guru Nanak across the globe, at least 1,400 more such ‘Guru Nanak Sacred Forests’ are in pipeline being developed with community participation.
Guru Nanak Sacred Forests are being planted after tying up with educational institutions, village panchayats or government offices who agree to provide land for plantation.
“In the layered plantation method of Miyawaki, we are using water retention material (toorhi), perforation material (rice husk), paddy stubble, cow dung manure, bamboo sticks, and other natural materials to increase soil fertility. The idea is to create dense forests, not landscaped gardens,” said Ravneet Singh. And once the plantation is done, landowners have to share videos of how saplings are being maintained and watered timely.
The species being planted are also only native ones like peepal, sheesham, mango, jamun, kikar, ashwagandha, mahua, harshingaar, bargad, falsa, arjun, bel patra, amaltas, guggal among others including the ones finding mention in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
And the forests planted using Miyawaki technique have shown tremendous growth. “Forests grown with Miyawaki technique are showing accelerated growth as compared to saplings planted in isolation using the traditional way. They are prospering,” said Ravneet.
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