800,000 people in Uttar Pradesh, India, planted 49.3 million trees on Monday, shattering the world record previously set by Pakistan in 2013 with 847,000.
The government’s “green” campaign was spearhead at the United Nation’s climate conference in Paris in December 2015, with India agreeing to increase its nationwide tree coverage by 235 million acres within the next decade and a half, pledging $6.2 billion towards the effort.
In all, 80 different species of saplings were planted in India’s most populous state, just east of New Delhi, bordering Nepal.
“The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change,” said Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadev.
India is feeling the effects of global warming more than any other country, as a World Health Organization report released in May showed that the developing nation has six of the 10 worst polluted cities in the world, including the capital city of New Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made modest environmental reforms since being elected in 2014, but the pro-growth and anti-bureaucratic leader oversees a government that has also frozen the assets of environmental activists and sold land and resources to corporations at cut-rate prices.
“Our political leaders don’t know about the environment or realize the impact,” said environmental activist Subhas Datta. “They have a callous attitude (towards) it. Development should not have to mean destruction. It should be done in a sustainable way.”
Environmental cleanliness may be the causality of extraordinary economic growth that India has enjoyed over the past decade, as the South Asian country ranked eighth in GDP growth in 2015, the only nation with a significant population in the top-15.
However, despite leading the world in foreign investment and a rapidly improving infrastructure, more than an estimated 500,000 Indians die per year from the effects of air pollution — a testament to India’s poor Quality of Life ranking, currently 41st in the world out of 61 countries.
[Popular Science] [IFL Science] [AP] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy Getty Images/AFP]