Thousands of Malaysians, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir, simultaneously planted trees across the country on 15 October, from 9.35 to 9.36am, to mark ‘World Habitat Day’ on the same day, the national news agency, Bernama reported.

The Prime Minister launched a nationwide tree-planting campaign in 1997 with a target of three million trees set to be planted by the end of 2000 and 20 million trees by 2020. Up until June 1999, some 2.3 million trees, or 80% of the target, had been planted throughout the country, with the ‘New Millennium Tree Planting’ taking the nation closer to its goal. Mahathir has also vowed to turn the country into a garden nation by 2005.

A total of 30 different species were planted nationwide, beating the previous world record of tree planting held in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where a total of 24,199 trees were planted within one week from April 10, 1976, Bernama said.

The prime minister said that the rocketing world population had created a greater need for living space meaning vast areas of jungle had been cleared and trees felled, but that in Malaysia rapid growth had been achieved without neglecting the environment. He also called on city authorities to develop parks when the current price of land was low.

At the same time as launching the tree-planting event, Mahathir called for hills and trees to be preserved when embarking on development projects, such as housing. At present, hills are levelled and trees felled, with landscaping carried out on completion of the projects, Bernama said. The Malaysian economy has consistently had one of the fastest growth rates in the world, which is evident in the quantity and scale of new building projects undertaken.

Mahathir cited the resort of Langkawi as an example where hotel operators had allowed trees to grow exceeding the level of the hotel rooms and where trees were allowed to grow through the floor of some houses.

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