Uttarakhand's Tree Man Who Planted 50 Lakh Trees Dies At 96
He always carried a smile on his face, even at the age of 96, he was as strong as an old trunk. Known as a ‘Vriksha Manav(Tree Man)’, Uttarakhand’s Vishweshwar Dutt Saklani passed away at the age of 96 in Tehri district on Friday morning. He is survived by his son and 80-year-old wife, who said that Trees were everything for Saklani.
He had also participated in the freedom struggle and was a conservationist. Love for nature came very early into his life, Saklani started planting trees when he was just eight years old, and did till the age of 96, his family says he planted over 50 lakh trees in his district, Hindustan Times.
His son, Santosh Swaroop Saklani, who works at the Governor’s Office said, “A decade ago, he lost his eyesight because mud and pebbles went into his eyes while planting trees. But, that did not deter him. Even without eyesight, he planted thousands of trees.”
He planted trees in his native Saklana village, and to make his area beautiful he choose rhododendron, guava and several other broad-leaved and fruiting trees for plantation.
The land which was barren when he started the initiative, is now lush green forest area. In 1986, he was honoured with the Indira Priyadarshini Award by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Opposed by many but he did not stop
A fighter, Saklani could never be deterred by anyone, initially when he started planting trees he was opposed by many locals who did not believe that he is planting trees to save conservation. The locals thought that he was trying to encroach upon their land by planting trees. However, it took some time for the locals to understand his love for nature and later many appreciated his efforts of conserving the environment. The locals claim that the people of the district will cherish his excellent work for years to come.
In 1958, Saklani lost his first wife, following which he married Bhagwati Devi, who supported his passion for trees over the years. “Trees were his everything. He used to say, trees are my family, my parents, my friends and my world. He did not wish to see the world because for him every tree was a world of its own,” said Bhagwati said.
For years Saklani planted trees in his district, and the area where he planted lakhs of trees is now named after his elder brother -‘Nagendra Dutt Saklani Van’, who was also a freedom fighter. His brother Nagendra was also an instrumental person in revolting against the ruler of Tehri in 1948 and his rebellion led to the merger of Tehri state to the Indian Union.