The Uttar Pradesh government today carried out the task of planting a record 10 million saplings in a day as part of its commitment towards improving the green cover in the state.
The state's green cover stands at a paltry 9.3 percent - far below the national average of 23 percent, an official said.
"We are confident of completing our target of planting 10 million trees by the end of the day," said Roopak Dey, principal chief conservator of forests entrusted with the massive afforestation programme.
"This was the first time that such a giant single exercise was being undertaken in the state," Dey told IANS.
Asked how the count would be ensured when fudging of figures was rampant in the state, he said: "this time we have kept checks and double-checks to avert these irregularities".
He said: "Besides department officials, we have kept two independent witnesses to certify the count. We are also getting videography of the entire exercise almost everywhere and keeping a record of the longitude and latitude of the site of each plantation, so that there is no scope for mischief now."
While United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi participated in the plantation programme in her parliamentary constituency Rae Bareli, Chief Minister Mayawati was in the state capital to attend the programme along with senior vice president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and some prominent social workers and activists.
The largest single plantation site was in Hathras where as many as 40,000 saplings were planted on an open forest land in the presence of prominent leaders and top local officials.
According to state's principal forest secretary V.N. Garg, who took the initiative to plan the drive, 50 percent of the plantations would be looked after by local farmers.
"The rest were entrusted to the care of private and government-run schools in urban, semi-urban and rural areas, besides non-government organisations and even individuals," Garg said.