As part of Green Tamil Nadu Mission, the Tiruvannamalai and Tirupattur district administrations kick-started a massive green initiative by planting over 3.5 lakh saplings, covering at least 550 villages in these districts on Saturday. Along with the Collector, B. Murugesh, K. Pitchandi, Deputy Speaker of Tamil Nadu Assembly, planted saplings on the girivalam path in Tiruvannamalai town. The girivalam path is being spruced up with various civic amenities and infrastructure facilities for the visitors ahead of the Maha Deepam festival to be celebrated on December 6. A total of 1.5 lakh saplings were planted in Tiruvannamalai, most of them on the girivalam path. In Tirupattur district, around two lakh saplings were planted, covering all its villages including Yelagiri Hills as part of the drive. Areas were selected based on tree density. Soil tests were also conducted before planting these saplings in each area to make sure they suited the local weather conditions. Officials said the initiative has been started under the Green Tamil Nadu Mission 2023-24 to increase the green cover in areas with less tree density in each district. Respective local bodies and NGOs were also roped in to maintain the saplings planted in these districts. Women workers enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme were roped in for the drive. Plant varieties like vaagai (Albizia lebbeck), vembu (Azadirachta indica), mantharai (Bauhinia purpurea), punnai (Calophyllum inophyllum), kalyana murungai (Erythrina variegata) and ‘arasamaram’ (Ficus religiosa) were among those planted as part of the drive. Plant species like guava, rose wood, naval tree, izhupai tree, mango and gooseberry were also planted. Volunteers have been roped in to water the plants twice a week for a period of one year. Tree guards, which would be removed after two years, were provided to shield the saplings from damage.