Massive tulsi plantation drive planned in Agra on Republic Day

January 25th, 2009 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Jan 25 (IANS) It will be a plantation drive with a difference. On Republic Day Monday, thousands of tulsi (basil) saplings will be planted in Agra city, especially around the Taj Mahal, which forest officials say would “insulate” the area from atmospheric pollution and also protect heritage monuments.Thousands of saplings will be distributed free at MD Jain College, Sikandra, the Taj Nature Walk and at several other points in the city by forest officials.

Zonal forest conservator R.P. Bharti has instructed forest department officials to take up tulsi plantation in a big way on forest land, between rows of tall trees, and persuade schools and village councils to take to tulsi plantation. “We have a target of 20 lakh (two million) tulsi plants within a couple of months,” Bharti told IANS.

According to Bharti, the tulsi plants would “insulate the Agra environment from pollution and this would indirectly take care of the health of the heritage monuments, including the Taj Mahal”.

Forest official N.K. Janoo told IANS: “The tulsi plant has very good absorptive quality to clean the air of foul gases. Because the plant has religious association too, people would take care of it.”

The target in the first phase is to plant 100,000 saplings. The department has short-listed the NGOs to be invited to join the effort. The idea is to concentrate on colonies adjacent to the Taj Mahal, mainly Taj Nagri, Shastri Puram, and Kamla Nagar.

Conservationists in Agra have questioned the tulsi plantation drive, wondering how it will help the Taj Mahal. There is talk that the tulsi leaves will be used to scrub the Taj’s marble surface to give it another beauty treatment like the mud-pack tried last year.

Interestingly, a multinational company based in Lucknow has extended support to the programme. Organic India Pvt Ltd. is an exporter of tulsi leaves to the US and Israel.

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