Almost everybody nowadays knows about the importance of trees and we hear a lot of people talk about planting trees, but seldom do we talk about growing trees. Tree-planting is the process of transplanting tree saplings or seedlings, generally for forestry, land reclamation, or landscaping purposes. Trees are also planted for reforestation or afforestation. Tree planting is literally taking a seedling and putting it in the soil – that’s planting. When we say tree planting, it is just an event.


On the contrary, tree-growing is a long term affair. Even fast growing trees take a minimum of four to five years to establish. If they survive these formative years, they normally go on to live for many years, even centuries. That is why we should change the narrative from ‘planting trees’ to ‘growing trees’. If our understanding of growing trees is downgraded to planting trees, we are laboring in vain for the most part.


Every World Environment Day, year after year, for the past many years, we have planted so many trees but take a look around and observe if even a half of them have actually grown. Planting trees to mark the occasion is one thing, but making sure that they survive and grow is quite another. That is where we’ve miserably failed. Even if only half of all the trees that were planted had survived, we would be living in a literally densely wooded town today.


Another aspect that we should consider while planting tree saplings is that there should be proper planning done before the planting exercise. Often, trees planted in human inhabited areas are cut down for various reasons. We should, therefore, plant trees after proper planning.


It is amazing to know that the Forest Department under the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) project in Mokokchung district alone has planted 5,96,633 tree saplings covering a total area of 3,385 hectares in the last three years as per official records. It will be interesting to note just how many of those 5,96,633 tree saplings survive the first few initial years. So much aftercare is needed for a sapling to survive and grow.


It is a labor intensive exercise. Growing trees is a process, a long one at that, and planting saplings is just the easy part of it. The real challenge is taking care of the saplings after they have been planted, day after day, until they establish themselves and their prospect of survival is assured. There is no point in investing so much time, energy and resources on planting trees if the narrative is not about actually growing trees.



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