Turkey loses millions of saplings planted in record-breaking campaign

Turkey planted 11 million saplings across its 81 provinces on Nov. 11, 2019, smashing a world record in what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called a bid “to foster a new, lush green Turkey”. Two months later, only one-in-ten of those trees is still alive, Turkish daily Cumhuriyet reported.

The drive to plant the trees capped the “Breath for the Future” campaign to much fanfare last year, with the government hailing the achievement and Guinness World Records acknowledging Turkey’s record-breaking achievement of planting 303,150 trees in an hour.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry at the time said care had been taken to ensure that the saplings would thrive. But experts warned that the ground lacked moisture in November and that fewer than 10 percent of the saplings would survive, Cumhuriyet said.

Studies conducted in various planting areas by the Forest and Agriculture Labour Union, an association working under the ministry, has proven the experts right.

“We said it was wrong to run the campaign in a period without adequate rainfall just to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Besides that, the people recruited to plant the trees were not adequately trained. If only we had been wrong,” the union’s chairman Şükrü Durmuş said.

“This is a murder. We are warning the Forestry and Agriculture Ministry once more. Over 17 years you have handed over thousands of hectares to international companies to develop as mines. You won’t fix the destruction caused by these companies by planting 11 million trees,” he said.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party government has come under fire for prioritising business concerns over the environment. Last year, thousands of people flocked to the Kaz Mountains in western Turkey to protest against a Canadian gold mine project,