World Environment Day is globally celebrated every year on June 5 and is the United Nations’ principal amplifier to encourage awareness and action for the protection of the environment. The theme for this year is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ and brings into focus the critical importance of preserving eco-fragility for collective well-being. “The pandemic has shown us that if we stay oblivious to the destruction of eco-diversity, we will pay dearly. Only proactive synergy between all stakeholders can protect the environment,” says Bikrant Tiwary, CEO of Grow-Trees (GT).
GT is the official partner of UN Environment Program’s ‘Billion Tree Campaign.’ It is a social initiative that was started in the Year 2010 with a vision to increase environmental awareness through planting or gifting trees on special occasions. It joined WWF’s ‘Cities for Forest’ Campaign in 2011.
Says Bikrant, “We started afforestation and tree plantation initiatives in 2010 sensing the urgency to build back shrinking wildlife habitats, forests and to restore diminishing biodiversity. We have lost so much green cover in India thanks to developmental activities, land grabbing, illegal mining, rampant poaching, and heedless deforestation. The pandemic comes as a global wake-up call to create awareness about environmental issues and follow actionable strategies to restore ecological balance. Our ‘Greet with Trees’ concept has been a great success in spreading awareness about afforestation.”
Bikrant points out the irony that it took a pandemic and a lockdown to finally reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality around the world. But the truth is obvious, “A virus cannot be the cure to saving the ecosystem and environment.”
Founder Pradip Shah adds, “What we do is as much about planting trees as it is about creating a movement of sensitisation towards environmental issues. We work with local communities, corporations, local governments, and grassroots organizations to emphasise the importance of synergy. Only when everyone works hand in hand to restore the environment and takes collective action, can there be a tangible change.”
GT has been systematically carrying out targeted afforestation missions across 23 states and has initiated plantation of more than 8.5 million trees, while generating 700,000+ days of employment for rural and tribal communities. It has managed 500+ corporate collaborations and has inched closer to the dream of planting globally by setting up a project in North Uganda, East Africa to help refugees and local communities. In 2020 alone, they have planted 2.6 million trees (cumulatively over 8 million), doubled their operations, and distributed dry ration kits to 400 households in COVID-affected villages.
They have also worked towards the rejuvenation of water bodies and initiated training programs for fishery and bee-keeping to generate immediate employment and create future livelihood opportunities for the villagers. Over the years, they have developed projects in high-altitude landscapes to improve Himalayan biodiversity, initiated the first private effort to improve the Kanha-Pench corridor in central India by planting 300,000 trees .