K.V. Kurmanath

Bhadrachalam, Sept. 5

EYEING a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, ITC's Foods Division has led a campaign locally to plant over three lakh saplings in just 20 minutes, breaking a Canadian record.

As many as 15,907 farmers and 300 volunteers planted 3,00,587 eucalyptus and subabul saplings in 264 acres in 17 villages near here, owned by 16 farmers.

The idea behind vying for a place in the Guinness Book was that it would trigger interest among the people, particularly children, about environmental issues. The existing Guinness record, held by a Canadian organisation, was 1,34,000 saplings in one hour.

The returns on these eucalyptus plantations would go to the farmers, while the company can tap the wood for its paper division here. The company spent Rs 50 lakh on this campaign.

Besides promoting the Sunfeast brand, the move was intertwined with the interests of ITC's paper division situated here. Though it was not a captive feed, ITC certainly wanted to use the output for its plant here.

One hectare of eucalyptus plantation would yield 100 tonnes of wood, giving Rs 2 lakh after five years as against some Rs 5,000 an acre (on paddy) in the region. The ITC unit consumed four-five lakh tonnes a year.

The mammoth exercise was taken up as part of `Sunfeast Hara Banao' campaign. The campaign was aimed at "sensitising people to the deteriorating environmental conditions."

Announcing the results of the campaign, Mr Ravi Naware, Divisional Executive, ITC (Foods Division), said the company had launched the `hara banao' campaign in Mumbai last year. In a bid to give that campaign a big push, the company chalked out the massive record-breaking planting of saplings.

This year, the company would like to take the `hara banao' campaign to 500 schools in the country to bring awareness among the students about the environmental issues and also to position the Sunfeast brand well. "Our target is to reach out to three lakh students," he said.

The massive plantation might also yield revenues in the form of selling carbon credits.

Mr Pradeep Dhobale, Divisional Chief Executive of ITC Paperboard and Specialty Paper Division, said the parameters for selling carbon credits had not yet been finalised. "But that will definitely yield substantial gains to the farmers," he said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 6, 2005)
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