Creation of Guinness World Record
Most Trees Planted in 24 hours
Nagapattinam is a coastal District on the Eastern Coast of India in the State of Tamil Nadu with a long coastline of 187 km. The district is famous for the ancient site of Poompuhar and the Point Calimere Bird & Wild Life Sanctuary. It is also pilgrimage destinations for its famous Nagore Dargah, Shrine Basilica at Velanganni (a la Lourdes of the East) and historically important Hindu temples at Sirkali, Sikkal, etc. Living at the tail end of the Cauvery river basin - the Rice Bowl of the South – the half million farmers and farm workers of this agrarian district constantly fight the elements of floods and droughts year after year. With saline ground water and the oft un-assured irrigation from the Cauvery, the paddy crop, which is the lifeline of the district, is dependent on rains.
The year 2002 did not bode well. In February, heavy un-seasonal rains lashed the district for 3 days, completely devastating 1,00,000 hectares of fully ripe paddy crop. This was followed by a severe drought in June-July thereby rendering 50% of the land completely fallow.
The religiously sentimental people of Nagapattinam invoked the rain gods prayed for the rains during the coming North East Monsoon. In a confluence of purpose, in September 2002, when the district administration mobilized public support for a mega tree plantation drive to help provide a long-term solution to the problem and also create awareness citizens of Nagapattinam responded with enthusiasm rarely seen before. The drive started on Gandhi Jayanti the 2nd Oct 2002, and ended 18 days later with a quarter of million saplings planted all over the district. Surely, the Gods were pleased, for the North East Monsoon set in on 4th Oct 2002; two days after the mega tree plantation drive commenced. But as is wont with the monsoons, a dry spell set in again after 14th Nov 2002, bringing back the fears full circle. The weatherman had no good news to spare and the people were livid. At the Farmers Consultative Meet on 18th Nov 2002, demand was raised for a bigger Tree Plantation drive. Some suggested surpassing the World Record set by Nilgiris only a few months back. By then, clarifications had been sought form the Guinness World Records Inc and a search for a suitable piece of land was proving unsuccessful. The Farmers’ resolution renewed the vigour and the goal loomed within sight. The relentless search took us to Naluvedhapathy (North) village. When, on 23rd Nov 2002, the District Collector and the District Forest Officer visited the Northern bank of the confluence of Addapar River with the Bay of Bengal, the world record was already broken in the minds. Somehow, in District Collector’s mind, the dream site was just across the river, the Southern side. A visit to the Southern side three days later sealed the destiny of the attempt site!
An urgent meeting was convened the same evening with a select group of officials and prominent citizens. Commitment for financial contributions was obtained from various organizations. An almost impossible target date was set for 3rd and 4th December 2002, but achieving impossible only makes for World Records. After chalking out the various responsibilities, various teams were formed and responsibilities were allocated.
Five days was all that remained to complete all the preparations. But the enthusiasm level of the organizers seemed to be shooting exponentially with time. Every hour brought new hurdles but equally unexpected solutions. Help of all sorts – financial, manpower, innovative ideas, and encouragement – arrived from everywhere before anything went critical. A world record performance surely needed a befitting stage. It is true how every human being has this innate ability to rise up to challenges and achieve to potential. For, like bees in a hive, entire teams of enthused officials, benevolent sponsors, motivated volunteers, cheerful students, smart NSS volunteers and NCC cadets worked in tandem to complete the assigned tasks in time. And what mammoth tasks were these. Just when it seemed Floodlights with mega generators will either not be available or otherwise not be affordable, the Parish Priest Rev Fr. Arul Iruthayam of Vellankanni Church offered that Church has the entire infrastructure for this and will happily sponsor the same. Similarly when we were struggling at the eleventh hour to procure hundreds of cane baskets to be used for transferring the saplings to the zones, the Joint Chief Organiser and Sub Collector Mr. S J Chiru gave an ingenious idea to make stretchers out of jute sacks. Similarly on evening of 2nd Dec when we found that tagging of saplings is running hours behind schedule, we were pleasantly surprised to find 300 district officials descending on to the site late evening just to visit the place at least once before the historic event. These officials stayed back whole night to tag the saplings using lantern lights. Suddenly on 3rd Dec morning the mud road leading to the site gave way because of excessive usage by vehicles. The local Panchayat Union Councilor came to the rescue and laid the road within an hour. The list goes on and on…. After having worked behind the scenes giving their best, these volunteers handed over the site ready for the record attempt by the morning of 3rd December 2002 and retreated with grace to give the stage to the world-beaters.
Guinness guidelines, independent observers were required to be appointed to
verify and authenticate the claim made by the organizers. Our observers
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam
A native of Nagapattinam, ‘PadmaBhushan’ Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, is an acclaimed dancer, research scholar, choreographer,
music composer, teacher, author and Indologist, renown for her unique styles and
revival of the mono-acting technique in her productions. She is the Director of
Mrs. Krishnammal Jagannathan
Jagannathan, 76, is a prominent social activist and recipient of many awards
including the ‘Padmashree’ (1989), the Swami Pranavanandha Peace Award (1987),
Jamnalal Bajaj Award (1988), Summit Foundation Award, Switzerland (1999). She is
married to Mr. S. Jagannathan (92 years old), a freedom fighter, and the couple
provides a beacon of hope to the weak and the oppressed. Through her voluntary
organization, “Land for Freedom of Tillers (LAFTI)”, she has distributed 10,000
acres of land to the landless.
Mr. C. Srinivasan
Fondly known as Vellore Srinivasan, this Green Prodigy is synonymous now with the Green Movement in Tamil Nadu. He is spearheading a revolution to make habitations Clean and Green devising innovative and cost effective solutions involving local communities.
3rd of December 2002: The Day
The chaos of last one week was slowly falling into order by 9.00 AM. Meticulously planned teams of organizers took over various tasks. Participants who were checked and found medically fit were registered. The Guinness World Record Attempt of actually digging the pits and planting the trees was to be made by 300 volunteer participants who were divided into 14 teams. Each team was assisted by one Team Leader & 3 NCC Cadets. The Chief Organiser & District Collector Mr. Sudeep Jain and the Joint Chief Organiser & Sub Collector Mr. S. J. Chiru then briefed the participants in the presence of the Observers and the Media. After the Inter Religion prayers and chanting of mantras to invoke the blessings of the rain Gods, at 4.30 PM, the teams were flagged off to their respective Zones.
At 5.45 PM on 3rd Dec 2002, A Police Horn sounded the start of the historic event. The National Flag was unfurled and the National Anthem rent a patriotic flavour to the attempt. Within seconds all the 300 participants were energetically digging pits at unbelievable pace. A few of them seemed to be participating in a 100 m hurdle race taking only a few seconds to cross the hurdle of digging a pit and then moving to the other. When darkness fell, the participants moved to the floodlit areas as planned. The three Observers and the Media personnel kept their vigil.
Each refreshment break accorded an opportunity to take stock and return with renewed vigour. Dinnertime saw the Chief Organizer and his team briefing and motivating the participants. The participants could hardly contain their zeal to get the job done. By the time the last team retired for the night at 2 AM, the 7 fully floodlit zones had been laid ready for the planting to start at first light.
At 4.30 AM on 4th Dec,the devotional songs on the P.A System sounded the wake up call. An hour later, all the teams had commenced digging. By first light at 6.08 AM, the teams had started planting also. One could see the observers traversing the 20-hectare area trying to verify if all the rules had been observed. The enthusiastic work continued tirelessly throughout the day. By 1.00 PM teams had started reporting shortage of saplings. All these requests were being attended to by pre-assigned set of volunteers. The progress exceeded expectation and the availability of saplings and space became critical. All these while, counting teams worked vigorously but surely to keep pace with the participants. By noon, it was confirmed that the previous record of 42182 has been broken. In the afternoon, a new zone had to be opened to keep up with the progress the participants made. By the time the count reached 75,000, both digging and planting had now reached a feverish pitch and the exhortation of the high-spirited citizens reached a crescendo, urging the participants to target 1,00,000.
At 5.45 PM , the Police Horn sounded yet again to announce the close of the Guinness World Record Attempt. Spontaneous celebrations erupted amidst the hanging air of expectation for the official announcement of the final figure which came
At 6.15 PM when the Chief Organiser announced the magical figure, 80,244. The crowd once again erupted with chants of “Vande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Nagapattinam District and Naluvedhapathy village had entered the annals of world history. In between this the cheering subsided only for bringing down and laying to rest the National Flag at 6.00 PM. This was followed by culmination of Prayers for rain gods. The crowd now turned emotional with hundreds of citizens singing for rains along with Dr Padma Subramaniam. Congratulatory messages poured in (on msn.com) from proud Indians all over the world, with many of them cautioning on the post plantation care. Plans had been made but these caring messages only reminded us of the greater task ahead – for what is a world record for if the plants were to wither!
Post Plantation care
Dec 5th 2002 saw 375 village women taking upon themselves the Herculean task of watering these 80244 saplings. Just when we were again struggling to motivate another set of a few hundred students to assist in watering next day, the proverbial silver lining manifested in the form of heavy showers on the early morning of 6th Dec. There was rejoicing all over the district for our prayers were answered. The saplings and more importantly, the 1,00,000 Hectares of withering Paddy crop in the district got a new lease of life. As we had throughout said, the entire Attempt was to get rains. In the bargain if we set a new world record, it was only a bonus. On 11th Dec 2002 the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu announced a sanction of Rs 0.5 million for Post Planting Care of this project as well as another Rs 4 million for developing an Eco Tourist Park at the Guinness Site. With both Almighty as well as Government coming out in a big way to support this noble attempt by the Citizens of Nagapattinam led by District Administration, it is now assured that the Guinness Ecological Park will become a World Attraction in days to come. As on 31 March 2003 around 75,000 saplings are thriving well. Enthusiastic villagers have formed committees to monitor the care. Sticks have been erected to support each of these saplings. Another 2000 saplings including 750 coconut saplings have been planted. Watering from 62 small ponds which were dug up for this specific purpose is going on well. For a back up source another huge tank has been dug up which will act both as the center of attraction for the eco park as well as for supply of 1 lakh litres of water during peak summer months.
Nagapattinam District which is the most underdeveloped district has entered the World Map with its Greening efforts. Can we exhort all the other districts in Tamil Nadu to break this record. In fact we are confident that within next one year our record would be broken several times. Let us all join together in making Tamil Nadu a Green State.
TOWARDS GREEN DISTRICT....
THE HERCULEAN TASK
THE SYSTEMATIC COUNTING PROCESS TO REACH THE GUINNESS
Nagapattinam District Administration and the people of the district organized the Guinness World Record attempt for planting maximum number of tree saplings in 24 hours at Naaluvedhapathi village in Vedaranyam taluk on 3rd and 4th December While planting 80244 itself is a mammoth achievement, the counting process appeared to be an equally Herculean task. To make the counting accurate and foolproof a systematic approach was followed in the following manner. Counting was carried out at 3 levels. At first level each zone was allotted one NCC volunteer and he was provided with a counting sheet. First markings were put for pits and the cross markings were put after the sapling had been planted. At second level a team of 3 Surveyors were allotted for each zone with a counting rope. The one-Hectare zone was divided into parts and the rope was placed along the sapling rows then the counting was done. At third level, a team of three Exnora and Junior Chambers volunteers carried out similar counting process using rope. All the three level counting figures were collected separately and compared to find out differences if any. If the difference between the figures arrived at by the three levels was less than 20, then the lowest figure was taken as final. If the difference between levels was more than 20, then all the figures were rejected and fresh counting was done to arrive at final figures. Each zone figure was obtained separately and final total was arrived at 80,244 tree saplings planted in 24 hours.