Hari Chakyar, an advertising professional, describes Project 35 Trees as an epic journey across India to educate students about the need to protect natural resources and plant trees. Their latest ‘quest’ started on October 1st, 2012, feature Hari and Anthony Karbhari, a freelance filmmaker. The duo set off from Mumbai on a 4-month journey across India, planting trees, screening documentary films and talking to students about conservation and other related environmental issues. They have travelled to Mumbai, Daman, Silvassa, Baroda, Indore, Jaipur, Delhi, Gurgaon, Amritsar, Jammu, Chandigarh, Manali, Dehradun, Agra, Patna, Gangtok, Guwahati, Shillong and Kohima. They are using this month to travel to the remaining states in the north east and then visit Kolkata, Jamshedpu, Bhilai, Puri, Hyderabad, Chennai, Port Blair, Pondicherry, Trivandrum, Lakshadweep, Bangalore and Panjim with the aim to reach Mumbai by the third week of January 2013.
Hari, symbolizes the simple fact that positive change and sustainable action, starts with a few seriously motivated people. Hari, originally from Ambarnath, began this journey there, where he found himself perturbed by the state of tree cover and wanted to do something about it. In 2009, he planted over a 100 trees there and in association with the Rotaract Club, would do street plays outside the railway station to get people’s attention on the issue.
When Hari moved to Mumbai he took his ambitions with him. Project 35 Trees was born out of the real need not just to increase the number of trees in Indian cities, but also educate people, particularly students, on the importance of them. Hari says, “I was discussing the objectives with my friends and that’s how the name Project 35 Trees came up. We have twenty eight states and seven union territories in India which sums up to thirty five and hence Project 35 Trees. The objective is to reach each state and union territory and spread the word. Moreover, the number 35 does not click with everybody which serves a purpose of the name being intriguing!”
Hari’s together with his film-maker friend Anthony took to the road in October 2011 when the weekend trips began. Gujarat, Daman and Hyderabad were the first locations that Hari and Anthony visited in the months to come. While Hari planted saplings, Anthony filmed all of this. Their plan was to go live with a family, eat with them and plant with them. They could have planted at any place, but they wanted someone to look after the saplings and therefore the plan of staying with families.
With Project 35 Trees, the plan of action included talking to students and educating them about the need for preserving forests and planting more trees. “It was Anthony and Anish(another friend) who encouraged me to make this large. After almost a year, it was now time to do justice to number 35!” laughs Hari.
“Our plan was to go to every state, interact with students, stay with families and plant with them. I thought I would have to put down my papers at work, but then surprisingly, they allowed me to go on a four month leave. I couldn’t have asked for more!” says Hari.
Hari admits there is a lot of ground work to be done. Anthony and Hari reached out to friends through social media. They wrote to numerous institutions seeking permission to talk to students and plant saplings. “We began our journey in early October 2012 and started clockwise from Mumbai. So from west, we moved to the north and east; we’ll hit south soon and then conclude in Mumbai,” informs Hari.
Hari also says, “Had the project got corporate back up, it would have been viewed differently. We’re not doing this for ourselves and wanted it to be a people’s project.” The duo talks to forest officials across all the locations and tries to understand the prime reason behind the diminishing green cover
and the ever growing environmental problems. This information is valuable input to be able to work with corporates in the future for a long-term solution.
Project 35 Trees also has a facebook page through which they share their updates and reach out to people. You can get in touch with them here for any help you may want to offer. Project 35 Trees has reached out to over 1200 students and will be sending a copy of their documentary to all the institutions that they speak at. Leave your comments here in support of Project 35 Trees.