Nilgiris feat gets Guinness recognition

Udhagamandalam Jan. 3. The Nilgiris has broken a world record and the feat has been acknowledged by the Guinness authorities.

In commemoration of the International Year of the Mountains, a task force comprising green activists particularly members of the 126-year-old Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association (NWLEA), jawans of the Madras Regimental Centre, tribal youth from Mudumalai, field staff of the Forest Department and volunteers from non-governmental organisations planted between 5 p.m. on June 23, 2002 and 5 p.m. the next day, 42,182 saplings on 62.75 acres near Kuruthukulli in the Nanjanad panchayat.

In their bid to rewrite the record which stood in the name of the students, staff and parents of the Fultonvale Elementary/Junior High School, Alberta, Canada, who had planted 34,083, one-year-old native white spruce seedlings in 24 hours, the 300 persons who planted the huge number of saplings, braving chill winds and risky underfoot conditions.

In keeping with the rules of the world authority, only native (shola) species were planted in pits, which were of a particular size specified by the Guinness. The Guinness-approved observers were M. R. Srinivasan, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission; Chaitanya Prakash, then chairman-cum-managing director of the Hindustan Photo Films, and Ashok Upretti, Nilgiris Wildlife Warden Ashok Upretti.

The documentation was meticulously done by a team of the NWLEA led by its vice-president, Geetha Srinivasan, and Tarun Chhabra, environmentalist.

While several suggestions had been put forth early in 2002 to commemorate the International Year of the Mountains uniquely, a consensus was arrived at to go for a Guinness record, planting a maximum number of trees in a single place over 24 hours. And the then Collector, Supriya Sahu, took the initiative.

A framed certificate, in the name of " the District Administration and People of the Nilgiris", which came from England recently, was formally handed over to the Collector, K. Sellamuthu, here today by Ms. Srinivasan. Later speaking to The Hindu, she said that while the mass planting was only one part of the achievement, the more formidable job was to nurture the plants. The area was named "The Nilgiris Guinness Park" and funds were awaited from the district administration and the Hill Area Development Programme to preserve it.

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