Today, the state of Tamil Nadu, India boasts of an impressive green cover- thanks to the tireless efforts and hard work put in by the volunteers of Project GreenHands. PGH is an ecological initiative undertaken by the international non-profit, volunteer-run organization Isha Foundation with the mission of increasing the state’s forest cover to 33%.
It is an all-encompassing, grass-root level initiative that involves people from all strata of society and unites them to achieve a common goal- environmental protection and wellbeing. Till date, more than 30 million trees have been planted under the project across the state—which is an outstanding achievement in itself!
The main idea behind Project GreenHands is to explore the emotional bond between man and nature. It attempts to rekindle mankind’s love for trees and makes people realize their inevitable dependence on nature. By involving businesses, NGOs, students, self-help groups, government agencies, farmers and villagers, PGH started a movement of sorts to enlighten people about environmental sustainability. Making them a part of the project ensures that the project realizes its goal of restoring Tamil Nadu’s ecological balance with maximum human participation. Today, there are over 2 million people from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry supporting this movement wholeheartedly and actively participating in its planting initiatives. The project also involves women and children and helps in creating a unique bond between the trees and their planters.
Project GreenHands was launched during the World Environmental Week in June 2004 by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. Sadhguru is a visionary spiritual leader ranked amongst the 50 most influential people in India. In December that year, many south-eastern states of the country were wrecked by a devastating tsunami and Tamil Nadu was one of them. Around 380,000 people were displaced by the disaster.
When volunteers from Isha Foundation were rehabilitating the affected, they noticed that coastal areas with substantial tree cover suffered less damage as compared to the areas with lesser greenery. This prompted the planting of 25,000 trees in the tsunami-affected coastal areas in 2005 under the project.
A few achievements:
Since the tsunami, the project has been growing steadily every year. In October 2006, PGH organized the planting of 852,587 saplings in a single day in 6,284 locations across Tamil Nadu, an achievement which earned the project a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Year after year, the number of trees planted under the project kept growing and so did the project’s popularity and achievements. In 2010, PGH was awarded India’s highest environmental award– the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar.
On April 5th 2012, PGH was awarded the ‘Environmental Award – 2010’ by the Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu. Between 2008 and 2010, 5.5 million saplings were grown and planted in every district of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry with the support of the district administrations and volunteers.
The main goals of Project GreenHands are:
- Reversing desertification of land thereby reducing soil erosion.
- Inculcating a sense of environmental sustainability among people through education and participation.
- Inspiring more and more people to plant trees.
- Fighting climate change by increasing green cover.
- Reigniting people’s love towards nature and making the world a greener, healthier place for the generations to come.
Three models under PGH:
Trees For All: This model involves educating people about multiple benefits of trees and handing out saplings to anyone who pledges to care for each tree for a minimum of 2 years.
Green School Movement: As the name suggests, this initiative involves educating school children and involving them in every aspect of planting a tree, right from sowing the seed to nurturing the sapling until it grows into a tree.
Trees For Life: Under this project, farmers are educated on how trees can be beneficial to their crops. Farmers usually think that trees can adversely affect their crop production. They are made aware about the benefits of planting trees in the farm—it reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility, water retention capacity and total available nutrients; which then increases the yield of the main crop being planted.
How can you contribute?
People living in Tamil Nadu can support the project by participating in its nursery activities. The project has more than 75 volunteer driven nurseries in 28 districts of Tamil Nadu and Union territory of Puducherry where volunteers visit on weekends and help in filling pockets, transplanting seedlings, watering and many more activities.
For those who are not Tamil Nadu residents, you could still be a part of the project by becoming PGH ambassadors by spreading awareness about the project and helping raise funds for its mission.
Else, you can just pledge to plant trees around you and inspire your family and friends to do the same. You can educate people on the importance of restoring ecological balance and spread awareness on environmental sustainability. After all, each tree counts and the sooner we understand that, the better it would be for our planet.
You can also make a donation to PGH by clicking on this link: https://www.giveisha.org/index.php?option=com_fundpage&task=generategiveishaid&pageid=2
As Sadhguru puts it: “All this work involves an enormous amount of money and people with big hearts coming forth and working.”