100 volunteers planted an average of eight trees a minute to beat the Guinness world record
Anniversary: The clock is ticking. With music blaring from the loudspeakers, the area is filled with commotion as the crowd shouts and sings to cheer the men.
The organiser is anxious. After every interval, he announces the remaining time left for the men to complete the task. Clad in white t-shirts and caps, the men shuffle on the hill overlooking Thimphu valley in the scorching heat.
With only about 30 minutes left to complete the task, the men divided into groups move faster. The organiser constantly reminds them of the task they are here for today. Some groups, who had completed their tasks, move on to help others.
At about 10 minutes to 9am, the men accomplished their task, setting the Guinness World record of planting 49,672 trees in an hour at Kuenselphodrang, Thimphu on 25 acres of land. The 100 men planted an average of eight trees a minute or 496 trees an hour to beat the Guinness World Record of most trees planted in an hour (team). Bhutan not only managed to beat the previous record of 40,885 trees in an hour in Assam, India, but also set a new record. The motto of the record, according to the organiser, is, “Lets begin a greener Bhutan.”
The event was organised by Bhutan Eco-Green Initiative Network (BEGIN), an environment conservation project under Peoples Initiative in Celebrating the Sixtieth Anniversary (PICSA), together with the ministry of agriculture and forests. The 100 volunteers, comprising desuups, civil servants, students, and corporate and private employees, planted five indigenous species of trees at Kuenselphodrang. The ministry provided the saplings.
PICSA was formed under Her Majesty Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck as the royal patron to supplement the government’s initiatives for the 60th birth anniversary celebrations of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
Speaking to the volunteers, Her Majesty Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck said they had done the kings, country, and the people proud. “Bhutan has made history by setting the record in planting almost 50,000 trees,” Her Majesty said. “This is because we believe in protecting our environment.”
PICSA’s project coordinator, Karma Tshering, said the 100 volunteers underwent rigorous training for about three weeks. The men were divided into 10 groups and placed at strategic location to carry out the plantations. “We could have planted 50,000 saplings, but some weren’t planted properly in line with the Guinness World Record guidelines,” Karma Tshering said.
An official from Guinness World Records in London, Pravin Patel, was present to assess and verify the plantation. Two Bhutanese witnesses, police chief Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel and former minister Kinzang Dorji, and 10 stewards from various organisations assisted the official in verifying and assessing the plantations.
Photo sessions followed after the success was announced. The crowd and volunteers cheered along, chanting Pelden Drukpa Gyelo. The volunteers said they were confident that they would be able to set the record, owing to the extensive training and guidance they were provided for the past few weeks.
One of the volunteers, a 20-year-old school dropout Penden Wangchuck, said he was happy that the team’s effort paid off. “I tried planting about 10 trees in a minute. It was tiring but we were confident of beating the world record right from the start,” he said, adding that, during their trainings, some even managed to plant about 30 trees in a minute.
About 160 volunteers registered for the event, of which 111 were selected. 11 were kept on standby, should anything happen to the 100 volunteers on the finale.
Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck witnessed the event, along with the cabinet ministers, parliament members, and other dignitaries.
June 2 is also observed as Social Forestry Day. Forest plantation record dates back to the late 1940s, when the first plantation was carried out in Gelephu on 3.20 acres of land. The annual tree planting activity was re-enforced after June 2 was declared as Social Forestry Day in 1985 to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a visionary environmentalist.