The morning of 2nd June 2015 saw 100 men assembled under the giant statue of the Buddha in Kuensel Phodrang. They were there to create history by attempting to set a new world record in planting the maximum number of trees under one hour.
Her Majesty the Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck spoke to the 100 men encouraging them to do the nation proud.
Her Majesty said, “It is befitting that our very first endeavor for a world record is in enhancing the environment. As we all know His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan is a visionary leader who emphasized conservation of the environment long before the world acknowledged its importance.”
Calling on the participants Her Majesty said, “Sons of the Palden Drukpa, sons of the Peoples King, your King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the whole nation is with you.”
Encouraged by the speech the 100 men gave a tremendous cry of determination and rushed down to the hill slopes to prepare for the record.
Around 8 am in the morning the Guinness Adjudicator from England Pravin Patel gave the green signal and then the volunteers who had been divided into teams of 10 each in 10 spots furiously started digging and planting various types of indigenous tree saplings.
The 10 teams covered around 25 acres of challenging terrain but around two weeks of practice combined with a strong sense of determination saw them go furiously at it.
Each team had a steward monitoring them, counting the plants planted and also checking the quality of the planting.
The sun shone ever brighter and sweat mixed with dust trickled down flush faces but the volunteers who had received around two weeks of training kept up a steady pace.
The sounds of furious digging were interspersed with enthusiastic cheering for the volunteers led at times by Her Majesty the Gyalyum herself. Moral support was also provided by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck who also graced the event.
As the clock ticked by and the deadline of one hour approached a clearly nervous organizer Karma Tshering started the time countdown. At this crucial juncture when around 20 minutes were left and people were still planting trees there was a real fear that the record may not be broke.
After the previous record was held by the Indian Army in Assam and that too in much easier terrain. Here in Bhutan mainly young men grappled with a very challenging slope and even tougher soil.
The fast pace of the effort and the tough terrain was also taking a toll on sun burnt stewards running from one end to the other counting tree saplings and also noting the time.
Before long a victorious cry broke the air as the first few teams finished their areas. The now free members quickly ran towards the other teams and started helping them. This last and final push and an addition burst of cheering from supporters who were clearly watching a cliffhanger ensued that all teams finished their areas.
Given that 50,000 saplings were placed at the site the thoroughly sun burnt and tired stewards did a check and recheck and then submitted the figures of planted saplings to the main Guinness Adjudicator and his two witnesses. The three of them went into a huddle to come up with the final figure.
The at the main venue the Guinness Judge Pravin Patel announced that Bhutan had created a new Guinness World Record by planting 49,672 saplings in one hour to break the old world record of 40,885 trees.
As soon as the announcement was made there were cries of and cheers of ‘Palden Drukpa Gyelo’ led by Her Majesty the Gyalyum. There were also some clearly emotional volunteers who had tears in their eyes.
Her Majesty the Gyalyum addressed the gathering saying, “You have done your country proud. You have done each and every Bhutanese citizen, your Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and your King, the Fifth King very proud. I from the bottom of my heart, salute you. I salute you. We have done it.”
The initiative was held by the Peoples Initiative in Celebrating the Sixtieth Anniversary (PICSA) established under the aegis of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. The project coordinator Karma Tshering and his team had worked to put together the event.
The main force behind the event was Her Majesty as this record is one of the two big events of PICSA in 2015 in celebrating the 6oth birthday of His Majesty the Fourth King.
There was a 10 day training camp for its 100 volunteers. The first half of the day comprised of mock digging and planting exercises helped by forest officials.
The second half after lunch consisted of theory and discussions to learn from the first half, clear doubts and further improve. The physical part also consisted of light fitness exercises. The areas assigned to each individual and team remained the same till the final day to familiarize them with their area.
The participants were also given a special diet for breakfast and dinner to make them more fit.
Eight local species of trees like Walnut, Tshenden, Oak, Betula, Dog wood, Blue pine, Melia and Chirpine were planted.
The event will not end just at a Guinness record but the 100 volunteers are also members of ‘Bhutan Eco-Green Initiative Network’ (BEGIN) and take care of the planted saplings by watering them and fencing them. BEGIN will also encourage youth across the country to plant trees and aims to have around 100,000 youth members by 2020.
Karma said that by 2020 His Majesty the King himself would be 40 years old and then a very grand event would be held by BEGIN that Bhutan itself had never seen before.
Messages of congratulations poured in from all over Bhutan and the world with even the official Guinness World Record twitter account acknowledging the record. The Prime Minister also sent in his congratulations to the team.