WHAT IS THE GREENING INDIA WITH NEEM CAMPAIGN ALL ABOUT ?

Greening India with Neem

Greening India with Neem

Greening India with Neem is about giving people a choice to act. It is a growing movement in more ways than one ! All around us there is talk that our planet is in crisis…… that we are destroying and polluting our way to a global catastrophe. We are repeatedly reminded that we have lost respect for the earth in our greed for speed, comfort and commercial gain… ‘Greening India with Neem’ is a programme initiated by the Neem Foundation to channelize the growing concern of Indians about the environment into positive action. Keeping in view that deforestation, increasing soil salinity, accelerating soil erosion, over – grazing, automobile pollution and noxious emissions from industry are problems which affect a large majority of Indians, this programme aims to mobilize large scale public and government participation. Each one of us is aware and worried about the ozone hole, the atmospheric warming, deforestation and the dire consequences of not taking action to address these problems… yet we all watch helplessly as cars, power stations and factories give out huge amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere and the earth becomes warmer. The concentration of CO2 in the air has triggered climate change. There is a real danger that global warming will lead to increases in the sea level. Besides warming is also beginning to affect rainfall patterns and food production. The most effective action that an individual or a Greening Organization can take is to plant more neem trees. As this would lead to a healing chain reaction superior to any other ! Trees absorb carbon dioxide and help maintain the delicate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Neem trees act as very efficient, natural air filters trapping dust particles, absorbing gaseous pollutants. The planting of Neem trees helps reduce green house gases through photosynthesis absorbing large quantities of CO2 and producing oxygen. Besides neem has remarkable ability to withstand air and water pollution, as well as heat. Neem also restores and maintains soil fertility.

WHY NEEM ?

Neem is ecologically very special. It can tolerate very high levels of pollution and has the capacity to recover even if most of its foliage is dropped. Plants with a large leaf area such as neem, accumulate relatively higher quantities of lead. Trees vary widely in their capacity to absorb pollutants like particulate dust, CO2, oxides of sulphur and nitrogen. A study of locations in New Delhi, done by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, India in 1996 indicated that Neem tree is one of the most suitable species for checking urban pollution in industrial locations and it has potential in green belt development in hot spots with known history of high air pollution.

It was no coincidence that Emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd century before Christ, commanded that Neem be planted along the road highway and roads along with other perennials, Tamarindus indica and Madhuca Latifolia.

Neem has relatively high efficiency of CO2 fixation. It can fix more than 14 micro mole of CO2 per m2 per Sec. With a thick foliage canopy and a very high leaf surface area, it provides a good option for maximum CO2 fixation and providing a shield against other pollution components particularly SO2.

WHEN DID IT BEGIN ?

The Neem Foundation first began its efforts to enthuse Indians about the neem tree in 1993. By 1997 we realized that many, many more neem trees would be needed if all the potential uses of this extremely versatile tree were to be tapped. We also realized that it would take a minimum of ten years for the trees to mature, so even if we began planting them without delay, it would still take a decade.

Keeping this in mind the Foundation approached the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Delhi with a request that while according environmental / Forest clearance a stipulation/condition should be made that ‘Azadirachta indica should be planted as one of the species in the afforestation / Green belt development programme’.

Neem Foundation decided to take up the challenge and set a national target based on the demographic realities. Thus the idea of ‘Greening India with Neem’ took shape.

In order to ensure that the Neem tree receives priority in the Govt. of India, afforestation and eco-development programmes the Foundation invited the Hon. Minister for Environment and Forests Shri. Suresh Prabhu to interact with its members and experts. As a result of this interaction the Ministry convened a two day zonal conference following which it was decided to incorporate Neem in Forestry and Social Forestry Programmes on a National Scale.

As neem has a vital role to play in making agriculture sustainable the Ministry of Agriculture, GoI through the NOVOD Board invited the Foundation, as one of two NGO’s and nine premier Government Institutes to be part of the National Neem Network to implement a National Programme on Neem. The Neem Foundation worked in close co-operation with the reputed Organizations from 1999 – 2002 to promote and facilitate Neem Plantation on a large scale by identifying, raising and providing superior neem germplasm.

The 3-year programme was successfully undertaken by the Foundation. 30,00,000 neem saplings from superior genotypes were raised and distributed under this programme.

Having created a space for the neem tree in the modern Indian psyche, the Neem Foundation approached the eminent film personality and Member of Parliament Mrs. JAYA BACHCHAN, for energizing the movement to carry the message of large scale plantation of NEEM through the media. On being appraised of the hurdles and challenges being faced by the neem movement, she willingly agreed and a TV and radio campaign featuring her has been launched.

WHY IS THE TARGET 10 CRORE NEEM TREES ?

By rough estimates, India currently has about 20 million neem trees. The population of India is almost 1 billion. The equation works out to approx. 1 neem tree for every 50 Indians. This proportion is grossly inadequate, keeping in view that every part of this fascinating plant is packed with anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-histamine, anti-septic and immune stimulating compounds for treating hundreds of maladies. Neem has a long record of safety to human health and wide acceptability as a herbal medicine. It is one of the few trees that has withstood modern scientific scrutiny. Neem boosts the immune system on all levels while helping the body fight infection even before the immune system is called into action. Unlike synthetic antibiotics, neem does not destroy beneficial bacteria and other micro organisms needed to maintain optimum health. Neem offers a non-toxic alternative to powerful and sometimes damaging prescription medicines. It also has powerful skin rejuvenating qualities. Therefore increasing the number of neem trees to about 1 for every 10 Indians would have great impact in improving public health, especially in the rural areas where health care facilities are minimal. The other major factor that influenced the final target was that India has today more than 100 million hectares of barren, unproductive and degraded wastelands. Even a token target of planting 1 neem tree per hectare of wasteland could help drive home the message of using our own biological heritage and knowledge to make productive use of our nation’s natural resources.

WHO CAN JOIN HANDS ?

Each and every person concerned about the degradation of the environment and the threat to future generations, whether in India or elsewhere is welcome to join the movement. ‘Greening India with Neem’ is very much a people’s initiative and will remain so. It is being implemented by bringing together on a single platform – Individuals, Village Communities, Panchayats, State Governments, Government Bodies, Non-Government Organizations, Semi-Government Organizations, Schools, Hospitals, Agricultural Universities, Corporations, Trusts, Institutions, NRIs, PIO, Funding Bodies.

HOW CAN YOU HELP ?

Neem Foundation is a small Organization with limited means that hopes to make a positive difference. It is a non-profit voluntary, independent Organization that is totally apolitical. We have no political affiliations.
We need funds, facilities and support in terms of “A Larger Infrastructure, Volunteers, Transport Facilities, Resources for Promotion of Activity, Nursery Sites and Neem Tree Banks “.
People can initiate this activity by making groups of volunteers, collection of viable Neem seeds, establishing Neem nurseries, plantation of Neem saplings at all possible locations in India and their after care till attending sufficient plant growth.

HOW MANY NEEM TREES SHOULD ONE PLANT ?
While there is no limit to the number of neem trees that one can plant, the limitation is normally the availability of land and suitable sites. In case you are unable to find a suitable site to plant your own neem, you can still help by talking about this cause to as many people as possible. If each one of us can inspire a few others to plant neem trees, the job will be done and nature will take care of rest.

WHERE CAN WE PLANT THE TREES ?
Neem trees can be planted in:
Housing Societies – to repel mosquitoes and to enhance the availability of oxygen
Road sides – to provide cooling shade and to reduce CO2, SO2 levels
Parks – to provide a CO2 sink, to purify the air and provide refuge for birds
Highways – to absorb the pollutants and provide shade
Around farm lands – to act as wind breaks, to bind soil against erosion and to provide natural home grown pest control material
They can be planted practically any location that receives plenty of sunlight and does not get water logged during rains.

HOW WILL WE BENEFIT FROM THIS PROGRAMME AS A NATION ?
Greening India with Neem is a long term environmental programme aimed at providing one neem tree for every 10 Indians, so that Indians can use it freely for health and hygiene as well as for organic agriculture and all other known uses.

The Neem tree is globally being acknowledged as the most valuable tree in the world, in terms of commercial and industrial potential. The neem tree is the de-facto National Tree of India. It is the grand old tree of the Indian countryside and can make a cleaner, greener and more fertile India a reality !