With Chipko, Sundarlal Bahuguna shaped the green movement | India News
Sunderlal Bahuguna, a beacon of the Indian environmental movement, will continue to be a source of inspiration from his heavenly abode. His passing is an irreparable loss to the nation. A homegrown ecologist who ran a spontaneous’Chipko movement‘of the 1970s into a strong popular movement and saved the forests from the great Himalayas and the forest-based livelihoods of their indigenous communities were a living image of unfettered dedication.
When I first met him in the Gandhi Foundation for Peace in Delhi in 1975, it was an impressive moment. I was a student and I was very moved by his thoughts and ideals. “Harmony with nature is the only way of life”, he believed and instilled in many young minds an environmental conscience at a time when the world was blinded by a mad race of unprincipled development.
A true satyagrahi and avid Gandhian, he was born on January 9, 1927 in Maroda people near Tehri, Uttarakhand. With his wife Vimla Behen, he dedicated his life to the cause of society and the environment. From her early days as an activist, she believed in the power of women. She believed that women and nature are intrinsically connected and showed that they can lead change. He pioneered many social movements with crusader women, the most notable of which were the anti-alcoholism movement and the movement against the Tehri dam to save the Himalayas and the Ganges.
I clearly remember the 10 days that Bahuguna ji spent at the Tarun Bharat Sangh Ashram. He walked with us for hours to see the water and environmental conservation work in the Bheekampura villages in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Witnessing the conservation of the Sariska forests, he was determined to replicate the model in the Himalayas.
“The mighty Himalayas and the Ganges River are eternal symbols of holiness and their natural and pure existence is an integral part of the development of the nation,” he truly believed. It motivated me to defend the cause of the Himalayas and the Ganges. We spend hours discussing environmental, social and cultural issues. With passion and vigor, we embarked on a journey with 120 volunteers from Galtaji, Jaipur, to the Ganges birthplace in Gangotri to spread environmental awareness and mobilize young people in the cause of the environment. Since then, I have worked closely with Bahugunaji in the struggles against deforestation, pollution, and encroachment in the Himalayas and along the Himalayan rivers.
During the struggles against the Tehri Dam, I was privileged to follow her example, to see her passion and dedication for the environment up close, and to witness her remarkable personality that inspired hundreds and commanded action.
March 28, 2021 will be etched in my memory as the day I met Sunderlal Bahuguna for the last time. At 94, a lot had changed in his physical appearance. However, his passion and pride for his work and love for the environment was as strong as when I first met him. While talking about forests, he excitedly broke into a popular song about trees.
(The author is a well-known conservationist, popularly known as the ‘Indian water man’. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Prize in 2001 and the Stockholm Water Prize in 2015)