People collect trees from Caritas in the Shyamnagor area of Bangladesh’s Khulna district on Sept. 28, 2020. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)
The Catholic Church and its social service agency Caritas in Bangladesh are stepping up a massive nationwide tree plantation campaign with an aim to make the country greener and safer amid threats of climate change impacts.
Since last year, they have jointly planted about 400,000 saplings of various species of fruit trees. A total of 700,000 trees will be planted by the end of the year.
The campaign is inspired by three significant events — the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si', the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, and the birth centenary of the nation’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The campaign was launched on Aug. 14 last year when Catholic bishops led by Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka planted trees on the premises of the secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) in the nation’s capital Dhaka.
Caritas officials said its central and regional offices have planted or distributed 218,978 saplings in 118 subdistricts in 46 out of 64 districts of Bangladesh.
Poresh Paul, 35, a Hindu from Dinajpur district, said he had planted five mango saplings provided by Caritas regional office.
“I want to plant more trees ahead of the rainy session,” he told UCA News.
While trees are essential for a better environment, they can also yield financial dividends, Paul said.
“If I can plant more trees like mango, litchi, blackberry, coconut, palm, tamarind and mahogany, these will make me financially self-sufficient as well as protect the environment,” he added.
Ranjan Francis Rozario, executive director of Caritas Bangladesh, said they are not only distributing and planting trees but also making people more aware of the need to protect the earth.
“We are committed to plant the saplings to save our earth and environment. Caritas has been implementing various activities related to agriculture and environment. The whole world is thinking about our Mother Nature. It’s time to take care of her,” Rozario told UCA News.
“We also make people aware so that they do not pollute the soil, water and air and plant trees as much as possible.”
Just after inaugurating the tree plantation campaign, the CBCB announced that bishops would encourage all parishes to plant trees near every home.
“We have already filled up our target for last year as almost 60 percent of trees have been planted already and the remaining trees will be planted soon,” Holy Cross Father Liton Hubert Gomes, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the CBCB, told UCA News.
“We are happy to see people are more aware about protection of the environment thanks to the appeal Pope Francis made in Laudato Si’.”
Pleas for environmental protection resonate well in Bangladesh, which is facing massive risks from climate change.
Bangladesh is located on the floodplains of the world’s largest river delta system that empties into the Bay of Bengal, making the country vulnerable to natural disasters including cyclones, tidal surges, flooding and riverbank erosion.
Climate scientists have warned that due to global warming and melting polar icebergs, the sea level will rise by up to one meter by 2050. That poses great risks for low-lying countries like Bangladesh, where it is feared the entire southern coastal region could be wiped out and about 20 million people displaced.