India’s Powerful Movements until 2008

Saving the forests of Garhwal by sticking to trees. Fighting a big dam by living in submerged waters. These movements redefined the greening of India.

    Chipko Movement, 1973

The 1980s saw the debate on environment move from just deforestation to the larger issues of depletion of natural resources

“In the wake of reckless deforestation, a unique movement has bubbled,”observed India Today in March 1982. The 1980s saw the debate on environment move from just deforestation to the larger issues of depletion of natural resources.“

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.

    The Silent Valley Project, 1978

The Silent Valley hydroelectric project was to dam the Kunthipuzha River

It was a battlefield of personal agendas, between the then prime minister Morarji Desai, the Kerala government and the environmentalists.

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).

    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”.


    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.

    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.

    Narmada Bachao Andolan, 1985

Medha Patkar

 Narmada Bachao Andolan announced the arrival of the India Greens, protesting against destructive development.

“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).

    Tarun Bharat Sangh, 1985

In Alwar’s Hamirpur village, he is addressed as Ram.

Rajinder Singh, founder of Tarun Bharat Sangh and winner of the 2001 Ramon Magsaysay Award

Rajinder Singh, founder of Tarun Bharat Sangh and winner of the 2001 Ramon Magsaysay Award acquiring the position wasn’t a cakewalk.

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.

    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.

    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).

    The Research and Energy Institute

R.K. Pachauri

R.K. Pachauri became the watchdog of global warming.

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.


Source: Purvi Malhotra, India Today, December 29, 2008