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The Plant a Tree Today (PATT) organization has set itself the goal of getting one million new trees planted around the world each year
Bangkok needs to become greener! While Thailand’s capital of eight million is home to several large and pleasant parks — not to mention a rich cultural heritage and a growing modern infrastructure — it still doesn’t have a truly green inner-city ring. This is not a minor issue, as every new plant improves the local climate, while trees in particular purify the air and provide shade. Trees also produce wood and green leaves from carbon dioxide, releasing fresh oxygen in the process, which benefits people and animals.
4,144 new trees in one day — and that’s just the beginning
In view of these facts, the non-profit “Plant a Tree Today” (PATT) organization in Bangkok — like its sister organizations around the world — has called upon the capital’s citizens to voluntarily plant large numbers of trees. PATT, whose Asian headquarters is located in Bangkok, has set itself the goal of getting one million new trees planted around the world each year. In view of its own convictions regarding this issue, Merck Thailand came right on board when PATT launched an inner-city planting campaign in 2007. Nearly 400 Merck employees, customers, and their friends sacrificed their Sunday leisure time to get involved. They not only worked hard but also made generous donations, and at the end of the day, Bangkok had 4,144 new trees that were planted in the city’s downtown Si Nakorn Khan Park. The green complex was dubbed “Merck Forest,” complete with a sign bearing that name. “We’re not done yet, either,” says Cerean Chotivimut, spokesman for Merck Thailand. “Some companies might view this more like a one-time PR activity — but we want to take care of ‘our trees’ over the long term and ensure they remain healthy. Our cooperation with PATT ensures that this will be the case.”
Last year, it proved possible to almost triple the success of the project’s initial major success: Nearly 1,200 voluntary planters from the greater Merck community got involved, including some 190 employees and 800 customers, friends, and university and high school students. The participants met up at the “Bangpu Nature Education Center,” a nature reserve in Samutprakarn, Bangkok’s neighboring province. Bangpu, which translates roughly as “Shrimp City,” is located directly on the coast in an area dotted by mangroves — salt-tolerant trees that have no problems getting “wet feet” when the tide comes in. They actually absorb seawater through their roots and then release excess salt via their leaves. The Bangpu mangrove fields, one of the most valuable ecosystems in the world, are home to numerous species: The upper parts house birds, reptiles, and mammals, while fish, shellfish, and crustaceans are to be found in the root areas. The mangrove forests also protect the coast from erosion and emit oxygen into the atmosphere. It was therefore an ideal project that PATT invited Merck staff to participate in August 2008, when 11,775 new mangrove trees were planted, making the project a huge success. The director of the Nature Education Center, Chanin Phopoonsak, was pleasantly surprised by the results: “It turned out to be the biggest planting day since I started working here,” he said. “It included the most volunteers and newly planted trees we’ve ever had.”