Forests are one of the most important natural resources on the planet. They play a vital role in our lives, providing a range of benefits from economic to environmental. Forests are home to millions of species; they protect the soil from erosion; and provide oxygen for the air we breathe. However, their importance goes beyond these basic functions.
Forests are the lungs of the Earth. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, helping to regulate the global climate. In addition, forests act as natural filters for pollutants, improving air quality and reducing the impact of climate change. Their role in mitigating climate change is especially important in the current global scenario, where climate change is one of the biggest challenges faced by humanity.
Forests also provide an important source of livelihood for millions of people around the world. They offer a range of economic benefits, such as timber, non-timber forest products, and ecotourism. They also provide employment opportunities for people living in and around forest areas.
Apart from the economic benefits, forests are also vital for our health. Research has shown that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on our mental and physical well-being. Forests, in particular, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and boost the immune system. In fact, some countries have embraced the concept of “forest bathing” to promote wellness. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, involves spending time in a forest or other natural environment, immersing oneself in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. It has been shown to lower cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve sleep quality.
Forests also provide a range of ecosystem services that support human health. For example, they regulate water flow, helping to prevent floods and droughts. They also provide a habitat for pollinators, which are crucial for the production of crops and other plants that we depend on for food.
International Day of Forests
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 21 as the International Day of Forests, with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of forests and the need to protect them. On this day, countries are encouraged to organise tree-planting campaigns and other activities that promote the conservation and sustainable use of forests at the local, national, and international levels.
The Theme of International Day of Forests 2023 is Forests and Health, to highlight the importance of forests in the making of a healthy populace.
Top CSR initiatives Aimed at Improving the Forest Cover in India
1. HDFC Bank’s Tree Plantation Drive
HDFC Bank has announced the launch of a tree plantation drive in Mumbai. It has signed an MoU with the Office of the Collector, Mumbai Suburban, to plant 30 lakh trees across Mumbai city. This activity is part of #Parivartan, HDFC Bank’s umbrella brand for all environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) level in Mumbai has shown significant deterioration. The bank is highly concerned about the rising levels of pollution across the country, which also poses a serious threat to the health of India’s financial capital. The large-scale tree plantation will contribute to reducing pollution, improving the local ecosystem the overall biodiversity. As part of its strategy to combat climate change, the Bank is engaged in wide-scale tree plantation and has already planted more than 25 lakh trees. The project is also in line with the United Nations ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ on combatting Climate Change and the Government of India’s ‘National Clean Air Programme’.
Speaking at the launch event, Ms Ashima Bhat, Group Head, CSR and ESG, Business Finance and Strategy, Administration and Infrastructure, HDFC Bank, said, “The Bank is committed to the city and the state and will work closely with the govt in order to increase the green cover for the city. The bank is poised to collaborate with institutions and state governments.”
2. Apollo Hospitals Foundation’s Tree Plantation
The Apollo Hospitals Foundation and the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department have partnered to plant 90,000 trees across the state, as part of Founder Chairman Apollo Hospitals Group Dr Prathap C Reddy’s 90th Birthday Celebrations. The initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions, preserve wildlife habitats, and improve air quality for local communities.
Dr Prathap C Reddy, Chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group, said, “This initiative is a step towards mitigating the impact of climate change and ensuring a sustainable future.”
Upasana Kamineni Konidela, Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospitals’ CSR, added, “We are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate our Chairman’s 90th Birthday with a meaningful contribution to a greener future.”
The Forest Department will provide saplings native to the region, and Apollo Foundation will manage plantation and maintenance. The plantation drive will use Miyawaki forest models to bring back native trees of the region and monitor survival rates through geo-tagging of each plant.
The initiative is expected to have a significant impact on the environment and aligns with the Foundation’s commitment to environmental sustainability. The 90,000 trees are being planted across Aragonda to offset the Apollo Hospitals Groups Carbon Footprint by 3800 Tonnes, further strengthening its position as a futuristic leader in the healthcare industry.