It is highly unlikely that you would believe if someone were to tell you of planting a billion trees. An NGO in Kerala proves that where there is a will, there sure is a way. The "Billion Trees Project" by Greenvein, a non-governmental organization based out of Ernakulam aims to plant a billion trees in a period of 21 years.

A year ago, a subsidiary of the NGO which operates in some of the northern states including Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand was started in Kerala, with the aim of restoring the greenery of the state. Greenvein functions under the leadership of Swami Samvidanand who is the Secretary of Abheda Ganga Mayya Trust which is located in Haridwar. 

In the course of the year, the NGO has planted 3 lakh trees across the state by planting trees on all 365 days of the year. 

Contrary to the general perception that an organization headed by a religious leader will ultimately have religious colour, Ernakulam district coordinator Aju says that the organisation is a purely non-profit, non-political and non-religious entity.

A year on, Greenvein has more than fifty volunteers across the state with coordinators in every district. In the course of the year, the NGO has planted 3 lakh trees across the state by planting trees on all 365 days of the year. Manoj Ravindran, state coordinator of Greenvein said that the NGO plants trees in public places as well as in individual houses free of cost. However, people are free to sponsor for the plantations.

“We started off with supplies from the Social Forestry that is given away on June 5 every year as part of Environment Day activities. Later, we were able to set up around five nurseries in various districts to ensure that we have constant supply of saplings,” Manoj said. One of the main activities the organisation does is to plant saplings on the birthdays of their volunteers.

Aju says, “We don’t believe in the tree planting drive that happens every year on Environment Day, which normally has only a day’s lifetime." The research  scholar who has been associated with Greevein since its inception adds, "At Greenvein, we keep a track of the trees planted, by asking people to post  pictures of the sapling at regular intervals to make sure that our efforts do not go in vain.”

Greenvein will be carrying out several activities on June 5 to mark their first anniversary. Apart from conducting programmes at schools, the volunteers will plant Kanikonna (golden shower tree) and Jacaranda trees on both sides of the Vypinkara Island in Eranakulam that stretches about 26 km.

Chithira Kusuman, also the district coordinator of Ernakulam, came across a Facebook post about Greenvein earlier last year. She says that a number of enthusiasts from Kerala got together to form a Kerala unit and their initiative has generated positive response from the public. “It is important to plant trees now especially as the city is developing at a startling pace,” the former librarian said. “Now I work full time for the NGO,” she said, stationed at a private school to conduct tree planting programme as part of Environment Day activities. “When we started operation, we realised that it is not that people are not interested or aware of it, but the lack of platforms is the reason why there is a resistance towards taking up social activities,” she said. 

What binds the volunteers together is nothing but the realisation that planting and protecting trees are essential for a healthy planet. As Greenvein turns a year old, the volunteers are motivated enough to keep the target of planting a billion trees in focus.

All images source: Greenvein/Facebook