By Zafar Iqbal
A new world record of tree hugging has been set by the nature admirers in a remote village in Pakistan administrated Kashmir. Over 1000 tree lovers gathered in a far-flung area some 240kms from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, and managed to simultaneously hug a tree for one minute or more.
The activity was organised by a community group Darawa Development Organisation (DDO) who describes it as a symbolic gesture of love and appreciation to the forests and natural environment. Majority of the tree huggers were children and young people who came from various educational institutes from the valley, where literacy rate is very low and schools and colleges lack basic educational infrastructure like decent shelter, furniture and other facilities. The event occurred in a small village across the Line of Control (LoC) in Neelum Valley where the defacto- border separates Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.
The organizers of the event claim that this is a global record when the highest number of people has participated in a tree hugging event.
However, the attempt has not been verified by Guinness World Records or any international environmental organisation yet.
Meanwhile, the organisers say that they will provide videos, photographs and other legal documents and evidences about their achievement to Guinness administration.
Akbar, organiser of the event termed this event record breaking “We have informed the Guinnese Record about the event; however, all necessary record and evidences will be provided them soon.”
On the other hand, Guinness World Records spokesperson says that it can take up to 6 weeks for their record management team to review evidences from the moment they receive them.
Earlier, the largest gathering of people hugging trees consisted of 702 people and was achieved by the Forestry Commission (UK), in Delamere Forest, Cheshire, UK, on 11 September 2011.
A volunteer Amiruddin Mughal, who was one of the organisers, said that the passion of the participants was amazing.
“This was an emblematic effort to show huge respect to our forests and to raise awareness among the local communities who largely depend upon the forests for their livelihood.”
Officials of local government were also present on the occasion and showed happiness over the achievement, which they describe as ‘an international success of our environment loving people.’
“I feel proud to be part of this noble cause. And credit goes to the people of the area, who made this accomplishment possible,” says Mian Waheed, a government minister. “This event will be helpful to divert the attention of world organisations towards the indigenous natural resources of Kashmir.” KishanGanga / Neelam Valley of disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir where the event was organized, is famous for existence of various endangered species of wildlife, but, here locals complain of widespread illegal logging.
Globally, similar attempts have been made in various parts of the world to achieve the record and highlight the significance of forests. In India women have been involved in parallel ceremonies to express symbolic gesture to protect local trees. This awareness -building attempt of unique kind in the Kashmir has been made in a time when environmental groups are concerned over the deteriorating natural habitat of the region.
They say that natural resources are facing extraordinary threats due to ruthless deforestation, population growth, soil erosion, unplanned development and other ecological problems. “Awareness and education through such kind of events is only one side of our environmental landscape,” states Aftab Alam, a local environmental expert, urges government to come up with practical eco- friendly solutions and plans for the protection of natural resources.
“Our generations may face catastrophic future if government and environmental agencies do not respond swiftly to tackle ecological challenges.”
This article was published by The Kashmir Monitor and reprinted with permission.