Bishop helps with tree planting in drought-prone Indian state

Prelate and fellow Catholics join community efforts tackling water shortages
Bishop helps with tree planting in drought-prone Indian state

Bishop Basil Bhuria of Jhabua (right) filling the pits on Hathipava Hill in Jhabua district, central India. ( photo)

A Catholic bishop is the first religious leader to join community efforts dealing with water shortages in Jhabua district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Bishop Basil Bhuria of Jhabua, four priests and nearly 80 Catholic community members worked on Hathipava Hill May 21 to fill hundreds of pits prepared for planting saplings with black soil.

The prelate was responding to a call for religious leaders by police superintendent Mahesh Chandra Jain in Jhabua district to support community efforts to tackle water shortages.

For the last year, low rainfall has affected many parts of the state leading to droughts and declining ground water levels.

"People in many villages in my diocese have to walk several kilometers to fetch water during summer. It is difficult for people to source enough water to drink, for agriculture, cattle and other needs," Bishop Bhuria said.

 Jain told that the work across 2.5 hectares of barren land began in March this year with the support of the forestry department and 100 police personnel.

"So far we have dug and readied 8,500 pits for planting saplings. Once the rain starts, we will ask people to come forward and help with planting trees for a better life," he said.

Jain explained that each sapling will be allocated a number and the people given the responsibility of watering and caring for them. "This will help to create awareness about environmental protection," he said.

He added that they intend to plant more fruit-bearing trees to help birds and other animals find their food.

Bishop Bhuria said he would issue a circular to all parish priests to help promote tree plantation in the drought-prone diocese.

"We have started to distribute saplings prepared in our own nursery to the people. Efforts will be made to create awareness and promote tree plantation," he said.

The act of providing unpaid labor as a social service for development work is locally known as "shramdan."

According to state government data from 2015, over 4 million farmers in the state were affected by the drought due to lack of water for irrigation.

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