1. STICKING TO A CAUSEChipko Movement, 1973
1. STICKING TO A CAUSE
Chipko Movement, 1973
Chipko movement in the Garhwal Himalayas, shoved aside urban armchair naturalists.
Led by Chandni Prasad Bhatt and Sunderlal Bahuguna, it was a people’s revolt against mindless deforestation.
And they did it simply. By hugging trees when the woodmen came to axe them,”said India Today in January 1990.
2. SOUND OF NATURE
The Silent Valley Project, 1978
The Silent Valley hydroelectric project was to dam the Kunthipuzha River, submerging the entire biosphere reserve and destroying its four-million-year-old rainforests.
In 1980, the M.G.K. Menon Committee set up to review the project, came out with a recommendation to scrap it.
With 40 per cent of its so-called surplus power being supplied to other parts and many villages of Kerala waiting to be electrified, this grassroots movement became the bedrock of Indian environmental activism (India Today, August 2003).
3. RESCUE MISSION
Jungle Bachao Andolan, 1980s
“Most states exist in the bliss of ignorance,” observed India Today in March 1982. It was this observation that led to the birth of the Jungle Bachao Andolan, that began in Bihar and later spread to states like Jharkhand and Orissa.The tribals of Singhbhum district of Bihar bubbled up a protest when the government decided to replace the natural sal forests with highly-priced teak, a move that was termed “a greed game, political populism”.
4. REAPING A CHANGE
Navdanya Movement, 1982
Whether it’s about empowering women or anti-globalisation campaigns,environmental activist Vandana Shiva has always had an upper hand in her fights against the authorities. Her ecofeministmovement reinstated a farming system centred on engaging women,changing the current system.She founded Navdanya in 1982, an organisation promoting biodiversity conservation and organic farming.The organisation has not only helped create markets for farmers, but also promoted quality food for consumers, connecting the seed to the cooked food.
5. DIFFERENT ROUTE
Development Alternatives, 1983
Labelled The Green Doer (India Today, December 2002), Ashok Khosla empowered people by creating jobs. Through Development Alternatives, an NGO that he found in 1983, he began work towards financial, social and environmental sustainability at the grassroot level. Over the years, his 15 environmentally-sound and commercially-viable technologies have generated more than three lakh jobs across India.
6. HIGH TIDE
Narmada Bachao Andolan, 1985
“One of the largest and most successful environmental campaigns, Narmada Bachao Andolan began with a wide developmental agenda, questioning the very rationale of large dam projects in India” (India Today, December 2007).
7. SUSTAINING FORCE
Tarun Bharat Sangh, 1985
In Alwar’s Hamirpur village, he is addressed as Ram.
He brought water to about 850 parched villages in Rajasthan and motivated villagers to harvest rainwater.“He advocated small ponds and check dams but did not oppose big dams or canal networks blindly,” said India Today in December 2003.
8. AVERTING DISASTER
Saving the Western Ghats, 1988
Home to sanctuaries like Bandipur and Nagarhole, Western Ghats, a biological treasure trove, was struck by an epidemic— deforestation in the 1980s. “The Union Government’s Forest Department estimates that within the last three decades, 4.5 million hectares of forests or an area the size of Tamil Nadu has vanished,” said India Today in March 1982. The Kailash Malhotraled Save the Western Ghats march, a 100-day padayatra across the hills, succeeded in imparting the message of environmental degradation and human rights.
9. TASTE OF WAR
Target soft drinks, 2003
She earned the image of a fierce public warrior, when she took on powerful cola manufacturers. “Sunita Narain, director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), threw two cola giants, Coca Cola and Pepsico in the line of fire as 12 major brands of soft drinks in Delhi showed 15 to 87 times more levels of deadly pesticides known to cause cancer and other diseases.” (India Today, August 2003).
10. CLIMATE CRUSADER
The Research and Energy Institute
And so did The Research and Energy Institute.
“Through his organisation, he stands at the forefront of international campaigns to reduce the debilitating climatic changes sweeping across the globe,” said India Today in February 2005.
The Bishnoi faith is a religious offshoot of Hinduism founded on 29 principles, most of which promote environmental stewardship. Bishnois strictly forbid the harming of trees and animals. The religion was founded by Guru Maharaj Jambaji in 1485 AD in the Marwar (Jodhpur) desert region of western Rajasthan, India. Jambaji witnessed the incessant clear-cutting of trees during times of drought to feed animals, only to see them die eventually as the drought continued. He also recognized the importance of trees within his local ecosystem (keeping animals alive) and banned cutting down green trees and killing birds or animals. Jambaji's spiritual reverence for nature led to a tradition of harmony with the local ecology: in the middle of an arid desert region, the Bishnois are famous for cultivating lush vegetation, caring for animals, and collecting drinkable water.
In 1730, almost 300 years after Guru Jambaji's 29 principles were recorded, the maharajah (king) of Jodhpur wanted to build a new palace. He sent soldiers to gather wood from the forest region near the village of Khejarli, where Bishnoi villagers had helped foster an abundance of khejri (acacia) trees. When the king's men began to harm the trees, the Bishnois protested in anguish but were ignored by the soldiers, who were under royal orders.
Amrita Devi was a female villager who could not bear to witness the destruction of both her faith and the village's sacred trees. She decided to literally hug the trees, and encouraged others to do so too, proclaiming: “A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree.” Bishnois from Khejri and nearby villages came to the forest and embraced the trees one by one to protect them from being cut down. As each villager hugged a tree, refusing to let go, they were beheaded by the soldiers. This voluntary martyrdom continued until 363 Bishnoi villagers were killed in the name of the sacred Khejarli forest.
Once word got back to the King about this activity he rushed to the village and apologized, ordering the soldiers to cease logging operations. Soon afterwards, the maharajah designated the Bishnoi state as a protected area, forbidding harm to trees and animals. This legislation still exists today in the region.
In memory of the 363 Bishnois, who died protecting their dear trees, a number of khejri trees are planted around the area, which is still notably lush and rich with animal life. The Bishnoi sacrifices became the inspiration for a much larger Chipko movement that is still growing today, in which villagers physically embrace trees to save them from logging.
Back to top