Patna, March 25 (IANS) Hundreds of school children and college students in the Bihar capital have launched a new mission -- to save trees -- and have appealed to people not to prune or cut down trees for lighting Holi bonfires.
The Holika bonfire, symbolising the destruction of evil, is part of the festival.
"We are appealing to the people, particularly youths, not to damage trees by pruning or cutting them in the name of Holika bonfire," Susant Kumar of Modern Public School here said.
Manisha Kumari, another student said different students groups are creating awareness among people not to harm trees in the name of Holika bonfire.
"We are trying hard to convince our neighbours and others in our respective residential localities not to cut tree branches for Holika bonfires," Manisha, a student of Aryan Public School said.
Some students of A.N. College and J.D. Women's College have also joined the campaign to create awareness.
Robert Athickal, who runs Tarumitra, a Patna-based organisation promoting healthy environment, told IANS here that the appeal by children is very positive.
"Students of nine schools are doing a difficult work to save trees," Athickal said.
"Students are showing that they have emotional bonding with trees and playing colours with trees. All this will help us to spread awareness not to damage trees for Holika bonfire," Athickal, the man behind this unique awareness campaign to save trees, said.
In Bihar, it is an annual ritual to prune or cut hundreds of trees for Holi bonfires.
Environmentalists have questioned the practise but failed to check it as the state government has not shown any interest in taking action against mindless damage to trees.
A.K. Ghosh, a teacher of environmental science department of A.N. College said Holika is a symbol of burning something, particularly waste materials, not green trees.
"It is good that students are educating people not to target trees," he said.
In a mockery of forest laws, activists say that people have been chopping off branches and felling trees without being stopped by forest department and other officials.
Vaidhnath Jha, an expert on Hindu scriptures said: "There is virtually a race among people to collect wood for bonfires. People have no concern for trees...."
"They want to fulfil rituals at the cost of harming the environment. There is no religious sanction for this," Jha said.
In Patna alone, bonfires will be lit at over 1,000 places to mark the festival March 26 evening.
Till the 1970s or even till 1980s waste and discarded materials were collected for the bonfires, pointed out an old-businessman Ramadhar Singh.
"We never cut trees. Now the situation is different. People seem to enjoy cutting trees," he lamented.
Bihar lost most of its green cover when Jharkhand was carved out of it.