A small state in India makes a baby move to save environment

Sikkim, one of the smallest states in India has made it mandatory for new mothers to plant saplings and protect them like their children to save environment

Dolma Sherpa resides at a hilly Kyongnosla village in Gangtok district of Sikkim state of north-eastern India. Her house is located in the remote village that usually remains in the grip of cold weather across the year.

The 22-year-old is a mother of 18 month old girl and takes pride of her newly attained motherhood. She ensures that her child Tshering stay protected from the cold and fierce weather conditions.

Mother of 108 plants  

But now she has an additional responsibility to care 108 plants and provide motherly affection to them so that they also grow up and live healthier like her child.  She has to prove herself not only a doting mother to her daughter but also share the same affection to over a hundred plants that would play a pivotal role in creating a green environment for her child.

Dolma, however, is not alone to offer mother like care to the plants as a new initiative by the state government of Sikkim has made it mandatory for every new mothers to plant 108 trees in order to play an effective role in saving the environment of the hilly state.

environment project sikkim
Sikkim forest minister Karma Loday Bhutia handing over saplings to young mothers © Gurvinder Singh

Christened ‘Mero Rukh, Mero Santati’ (my tree my child), the programme was announced by the state government on February 2nd to develop an emotional bond between the humans and the nature. The program is the brainchild of the state chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang.

“The forest department does plantation work regularly across the state. But we have to also ensure that the trees grow and survive without being chopped off or dying due to the lack of care. The aim of this initiative is to develop a strong emotional bond between the trees and people so that they nurture them like their child and take care to ensure that they grow up into healthy trees and turn the environment green,” said Karma Loday Bhutia, forest minister of Sikkim.

Target of zero emissions by 2070

He further pointed out that it is a commendable initiative to achieve India’s goal of net zero emissions by 2070 as promised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021.

Senior Forest department officials said they have also roped in ground health workers who visit houses to help in on-boarding the parents in the program, “The plantations can be done in any type of land whether its forest or private depending upon the availability. The 108 figures have an importance in Hinduism because attendants of Lord Shiva are believed to be 108 in numbers and strings used for prayers and meditation has 108 beads. We feel that the initiative has been blessed by the almighty,” said Pradeep Kumar, secretary of the state forest department adding that mothers with toddlers are also welcome to participate in the programme.

He further said that the program will sequester 2.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide (Co2) per annum for every new born that would comfortably offset the estimated per capita Co2 emission in India to the tune of 2.4 metric tons.

mother planting in sikkim
A young mother planting sapling in Sikkim with her twins © Gurvinder Singh

The state government officials said that parents simply need to send a “hi” or “hello” message to a designated WhatsApp number after which they will receive a link to be filled out. After successful registration, parents receive a congratulatory message via mobile or email from the Chief Minister.

During the enrollment process, parents provide information regarding their preferences for species, number of plants, and location, “Sikkim is a cold state so we ensure that plants that suit best to a particular environment is provided to them.  The forest department would also help the parents in the plantation as it would not be possible for the parents to plant 108 trees and take care of them. We want them to plant as much as trees possible and take care like a child. The families can also party under the shade of the tree once the trees have grown-up after some years,” added Kumar.

Environmentalists hail the move

Apart, the state government also observes mother earth day on July 7th every year when vehicular movements are completely stopped – except urgent vehicles – for seven minutes to create awareness about the carbon emissions and climate change.

Environmentalists across the country have hailed the noble initiative taken by Sikkim which is one of the smallest state of India with a population of around 0.7 million, a miniscule contribution to the country’s total population of over 1.4 billion.

sikkim and its forest
Sikkim is full of greenery and has vast forest cover © Gurvinder Singh

Sikkim is known as a green state for its vast forest cover that occupies 47 percent of its total geographical area of around 7096 sq kms.

“The small state of Sikkim should serve as an inspiration to other states of the country that how environment can be entwined with emotions to prevent deforestation and minimize the harmful impact of green house gases. The initiative shows that environment can be saved if we are committed and honest in our efforts,” pointed out Tuhin Subhra Mandal, a Kolkata-based environmentalist.

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