National Society Of The Friends Of The Trees
The National Society of the Friends of the Trees creates awareness of the vital role that trees play in our lives. They protect, preserve and propagate plant life.
Photo Courtesy: National Society of the Friends of the Trees.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” – William Blake
In the early years of India’s Independence, eager to contribute to the country’s well-being, a committed group of people, concerned about the preservation of our green cover, joined hands to create awareness on the vital role that trees play in our lives, protect and preserve them, and propagate plant life. The National Society of the Friends of the Trees, formerly Friends of the Trees, was thus founded in 1957.
B.G. Gade, then Forest Minister of Bombay State, was the organisation’s first president, whose legacy was carried on by distinguished luminaries such as S.K. Patil, Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, S.P. Godrej and now Dr. Pheroza Godrej. “In the rush of our fast track lives, it is greenery that helps to keep our sanity. I cannot imagine what life would be like without our friends, the trees. By protecting trees, we protect ourselves and also those who will inherit the Earth from us,” says Dr. Pheroza,
It was under the leadership of Dr. Bhabha that several chapters, branches and area committees were formed in various parts of the country including Kerala, New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Kolkata. A ‘Tree Bank’ was started by S.P. Godrej in 1977, and in 2001, Tata Steel donated one lakh saplings for the society’s ‘Green Mumbai’ project.
The society’s annual journal Vanshobha was first published in 1957 and provides a medium for members and nature lovers to read about various facets of trees. The society has a large collection of publications on nature and the environment, which is open for members to refer to, and they also periodically publish books.
A pioneering initiative of the society, Van Mahotsav, which was originally started by Dr K. M. Munshi, has been celebrated since its early days by conducting tree plantation drives, distributing saplings and organising seminars and workshops on environmentally significant days of the calendar. Nature trails for members are organised in September, October and November every year, when they visit forests, nurseries, gardens, agricultural universities and garden townships to gain knowledge on local plants and trees.
In 1958, the society’s first ‘Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers Show’ now popularly known as the ‘VFF show’ was held at Raj Bhawan in Mumbai. A grand success, the scale of the event grew each year. Today, 250 gardens, 70 to 80 individuals exhibit around 6,000 varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers under 30 different categories and compete for 80 rolling trophies and 450 prizes at the show, which is attended by 25,000 to 30,000 nature lovers. This year, the annual VFF show was held on January 30 and 31 at Bhavan’s College in Mumbai.
The society confers a ‘Man of the Tree’ award to honour the work of individuals promoting its aims and objectives. It organises an annual drawing competition for 800-1,000 schools students, essay and debate competitions for college students and involves the student community in all of its tree plantation programmes.
Over the years, the society has inculcated a love of trees and plant life among people, enlightened public opinion, lobbied for building more parks and gardens in our cities, and enhanced the beauty of our rural and urban landscapes.
Truly…“The trees had multiplied! They were moving. In one small corner of the world, Grandfather’s dream was coming true and the trees were moving again.”– Ruskin Bond.
Author: Anirudh Nair, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI No. 2, February 2016.