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We Should Not Be Talking About Smart Cities, We should be Talking About Smart Villages: Peepal Baba

Swami Prem Parivartan, or Peepul Baba as he is known, has planted 12 million trees and calls on all, including the corporate sector, to play a role in creating a green India at the BW Sustainability World summit

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Kenya had her Wangari Maathai, who won a Nobel Prize for planting trees and helping women and India has Peepal Baba, who has planted 12 million trees across the subcontinent. On #WorldEnvironmentDay, Swami Prem Parivartan, who is also known as ‘Peepal Baba’, shared his thoughts at the BW Sustainability World organised Sustainability Dialogue: Integrating Sustainability with Business’. He said human beings put in the least amount of effort to save nature and the planet. “The best we can do is to contribute to the goodness of things, while hoping for the best,” he said. 

Peepal Baba has been planting trees since he was 11 years old. He has planted over 12 million shade trees in the past 39 years. “The Human Race has a very small history, compared to the history of the planet and all of us have to keep this in mind,” he said. 

He explained how his school teacher, Mrs Williams, had imbibed in him the idea of conserving and respecting nature, using stories as a format to make the subject interesting. Quoting Mrs Williams, Peepal Baba said, “Pedho se kahani shuru hoti hai, Pedho pe khatum hoti hai” (the story begins and ends with trees). Stressing the importance of trees and forests, he said, “India is primarily an agricultural country, while technology and Digital growth is welcome, one must not forget that we are an agrarian economy and we are a superpower in agriculture.” 

“We cannot be wait for the government to do everything ‒ it is our life, health and wellness,” he said, stressing on the big role the corporate sector needs to play in the greening of India. “The Future is agriculture and allied industries,” he said, “farming is a sunrise industry.” 

Peepal Baba’s father was a doctor in the Indian Army, which implied that his family had to move from one military station to another every two years. At a very young age, he got to travel a great deal and to understand the country and its environment. “In 1977, at the age of 11, I started planting trees and planted my first tree on Range Hills Road at Kirkee Military Station. Today, I have planted over 12 million trees across the country,” he said. 

Referring to the issues plaguing our country currently like locusts and Tsunamis, he said, “Nature has its own defence mechanism. When the locust swarms approached, the birds went ahead and ate them. The trees are home to birds. Meanwhile, trees also act as windbreakers during Tsunamis and storms.” Peepal Baba vouched to bring forestry into urban areas, where the digital generation could create a difference.

“We should not be talking about Smart Cities, we should be talking about smart villages, smart forests, smart rivers. We have spent crores of rupees trying to clean up the Ganga, but nature has shown that if human intervention is not there, nature can take care of itself. In these two months of the lockdown, Gangaji has become sparkling clean,” Peepal Baba pointed out.