The Ashok tree mentioned in Ramayana, when Lord Hanuman met Sita, is rarely spotted today. While most might consider the Asopalav as Ashok, it is not the case. Now, following a successful Plant-for-the-Planet Academy, school children from the city, with the help of Jungle Journal Association, will nurture the real Ashok tree along with other rare plants as a part of the Plant-for-the-Planet programme - The Billion Tree Campaign, which was handed over to the children's initiative by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2011. The Academy took place on 26.01.2013, and was the first to be carried out in the state, and only the second to be carried out in the country. Vadodara is the first city in Gujarat where the programme has kicked off, with the assistance of the Jungle Journal Association.
Already, three schools from the city - Navrachana School, New Era High School and Zenith School have pledged to nurture trees and have joined the effort by planting 35 trees that include those from the rare varieties. Karan Rana, Mital Bhatt, Madhur Shinde, Mayur Shinde and Dr. P. S. Nagar - as well as short film enthusiast Rahul Bhole - are coordinating the efforts.
Safed Khakhro or Butea monosperma var. lutea, which was on the verge of extinction and only four of them were known to exist in the state, was also planted during the drive. Besides Ashok or Saraca indica, other rare trees that were planted include the likes of Biyo or Pterocarpus marsupium, Patala or Stereospermum suavolens, Kalo Sisam or Dalbergia latifolia and Mokho or Schrebera swietenoides. These also figure in the International Union for Conservation of Nature listings.
Another extensive plantation drive was planned during the monsoons to rope in more schools from the city. This is not merely a plantation drive, but a drive asking children even to nurture the trees. We will monitor their growth regularly.
After taking a pledge for Climate Justice the participants were empowered as Climate Justice Ambassadors.