More than 150,000 Santiago residents adopted a tree in 2010

The figure is expected to double in 2011. The Chilean government, which launched the plan in June, aims to have 17 million trees planted in Chile over the next eight years.

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The Urban Forest Project, launched by the Chilean government in June 2010, has been distributing trees at events, parks and public gatherings around the city. In less than six months 150,000 Santiago residents have already adopted a tree. The figure is expected to double in 2011.

The projects aim is to increase the current 6,740,000 trees currently in the capital to 11,500,000 in 2018, increasing the number of trees from 1.17 to 1.26 trees per person.

Planting trees outside the city is easier and cheaper, but the idea here is that Santiago’s people feel they have each planted a tree themselves,” said Consuelo Bravo, director of the project. “Allowing people to adopt them will generate greater empathy and commitment to the trees,” he added.

The 150,000 adoptions have mostly taken place in schools and within neighborhoods. The Mapulemu Botanical Garden in Tupahue National Park also made a special contribution, installing a stand in the park each weekend, where around 1,000 trees were adopted each Saturday and Sunday.

The trees distributed were mostly indigenous growing Quillays, Peumos, Carobs and Quebraco. The saplings would come with an adoption certificate, with instructions about how to plant and maintain the tree.

The project does recognize that not all the trees planted around the capital would survive, but Bravo insisted that its real purpose is broader: “it’s not really a tree-planting project so much as to develop urban environmental education. There could be other factors which decide whether the tree survives, but there is definitely a real interest from the people to learn about issue,” he said.