India’s government is killing two birds with one stone by hiring youth to plant two billion trees along highways throughout the country. The plan to put as many as 300,000 youth to work planting trees will help quell the country’s 10.2 percent unemployment rate amongst youth aged 15-24, while helping to combat climate change and beautify the country’s roadways at the same time.
“The length of National highways in the country is one lakh kilometer [about 62,137 miles]. I have asked officials to come out with a plan to plant 200 crore [2 billion] trees along these stretches, which in turn would create jobs for the unemployed on one hand and protect the environment on the other,” India’s Shipping and Rural Development Minister, Jairam Gadkari told The Hindu.
This is big news for the country, which has six cities on the top 10 list of the world’s worst for air quality. Treehugger cites a recent study that shows tree leaves have the capability to capture large amounts of particulate matter – the cause of poor air quality and smog. In the study, UK scientists measured air pollution in the form of iron-bearing particles in one UK city, then placed in front of them a screen of 30 young silver birch trees in planters. They then took measurements for the next 13 days that showed houses with the tree screens showed up to 65 percent lower concentrations of metallic particles.
Planting trees itself is nothing new in India, where one man planted a total of 1,360 acres of trees by himself, to create a refuge for wildlife in northern India.