The Chipko movement was started by Mr. Sundarlal Bahuguna in Tehri-Garhwal district of Uttaranchal against ruthless felling of trees and destruction of forests by contractors.
The movement gathered momentum in 1978 when the women faced police firings and other tortures.
Though the objectives of the movement were broad based, the main objective was to protect the trees on the Himalayan slopes from the axes of contractors of forest.
The movement was organized to oppose the ruthless destruction of nature to achieve short term gains. Mr Bahuguna emphasized the importance of trees in environment which check the erosion of soil, cause rains and provide pure air. The women of Advani village of Tehri-Garhwal tied the sacred thread around trunks of trees and they hugged the trees, hence it was called Chipko Movement When anybody tried to cut trees villagers faced police firing and later courted arrest in February 1978.
This Chipko Movement under the leadership of Sri Sundarlal Bahuguna spread in other villages of Tehri-Garhwal. Mr Bahuguna presented a plan for the protection of soil and water through ban on tree felling in the Himalayas at the meeting of United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP) held in London in June 1982. He emphasized that every standing green tree in the forest protects us from avalanches and landslides, purifies our atmosphere, saves our soil, water and other components of environment.
Chipko Movement is now a movement for planting of food, fuel, fibre, fodder and fertilizer yielding trees to make the people self-sufficient in all their basic needs. It would generate a decentralized and long term policy which will conserve the environment and bring everlasting peace, prosperity and happiness to mankind. Mr Bahuguna took this mission along with his dedicated workers and marched 3,000 km from Srinagar (Garhwal) to Siliguri. Mr. Bahuguna has focussed public attention for protection and conservation of forests which were being destroyed due to construction of Tehri Dam.
Tehri Dam on the Bhagirathi Ganga in Uttaranchal at the foot hills of Himalayas is big project of billions of rupees. The dam has displaced 85,000 people and has submerged the Tehri town and 100 villages. The site is prone to intense seismic activity. The 3,200 million tonnes of water could cause a major earth tremor.
In the event of a disaster, Deoprayag, Haridwar and Rishikesh would be divested and thousands of acres of agricultural land will be submerged The efforts were made to pressurize Government of India to stop further construction of this dam because this dam could destroy the forests, wildlife, tribal habitation and disturb the ecosystem of that area. It is unfortunate that the construction of Tehri dam completed and has started functioning. Much ecological damage is apparent.
People from France, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and several other countries have approached Mr. Bahuguna to get experience of this movement. In an International meeting held on June 5, in Stockholm to celebrate “World Environment Day” the following statement was given about Chipko Movement.
“A powerful environmental movement has grown up on the slopes of mountains of Himalaya Villagers have created an effective non-violent way to stop the devastation by forest industries. When the axe men come, the people form circle around the trees and they embrace the trees. This has given the movement its name Chipko Andolan, the tree hugging movement.”
The following suggestions are made by the organizers of Chipko movement:
1. All commercial green tree feelings should be stopped forthwith.
2. No new contracts should be entered by forest departments with the industrialists to supply raw materials and old contracts should be revised, especially those made for long-term supply of raw materials at cheap rates.
3. Pine trees damaged due to extraction of resin should be given rest for a period of 10 years.
4. A massive programme for setting up biogas plants, especially in the lower region be taken up. Night soil and other refuge of the cities be utilized by bio-gas industries.
5. Every water source should be trapped to generate hydroelectric power. People should be encouraged to set up their community power houses.
6. Plantation of the trees for food, fodder, fuel, fertilizer etc., should be encouraged.
7. All branches of forest department should be integrated into one. At a later stage integration of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forest department should be considered into one Land Use Dept.”.
8. There should be strong people’s participation in protection of environment alone cannot achieve success. Foot-marches should be organized in all districts to create general awareness in public regarding protection of environment.
In Chipko Movement there is greater people participation for soil, conservation and plant protection. The rural people have preferred their own priorities. Conservation work first began in the Chipko villages not for protecting trees but walls were built around agricultural fields to protect from wild animals.
The grasses grew rapidly in the protected area n the fields men this benefit became clear to women, they began to organize themselves for protecting and afforesting other patches of common lands. While trees take -any years to bear fruit, grasses grow faster in a protected area and can provide fodder in few months. The Chipko women have devised a simple way for sharing this produce. The head of the village Mahila Mangal Dal announces once a month a particular day on which one member from each family can take away as much grass as she can. Thus the role of women in ecological regeneration is very significant.
Today many voluntary organizations in the country are involved in environmental issues although their objects are different. Some have aim in preventing deforestation, while other are interested in afforestation. Some are interested to prevent the construction of dams. Some prevent water and air pollution. Among all these organizations Chipko movement in the Uttaranchal Himalayas, is the oldest and most famous of all the organisations which have played a major role in deforestation.
There is another parallel movement in the South ‘the Apiko Movement’ the western Ghats of Karnataka started by Medha Patekar. Dams like silent valley and Bethi have already been stopped because of strong people’s protests through this movement but again these are heading towards completion. Kerala Sasta Sahitya Parishad is another important organization which made efforts against water pollution of the Chaliyar River in Kerala by a Rayon mill. There are many others who are doing excellent work in mobilizing people to prevent further ecological destruction and bring about ecological regeneration and protection.