This post is part of Blog Action Day.
Every time we talk about environment, we tout and talk about Al Gore and his over-hyped documentary An Inconvenient Truth. What’s more, I have also mentioned him in my previous climate change posts. I thought it is time we recall some Indians who have done the good work.
Here are my top 5, with a bonus thrown in. 8)
1. Women of Uttarakhand in Chipko Movement: The movement was led by women of Uttarakhand. As the word ‘chipko’ means ‘to press your body against’; these women hugged the trees to stop them from being felled.
To be fair, forest conservation was certainly not the motive of this movement. It was more to protect their livelihoods. Yet it was due to this movement that spread in 80’s, new forest regulation laws were put into place.
It must be surprising to know that this movement was first recorded movement was in 1730 AD, that too was led by women. 363 Bishnois actually sacrificed their lives while protecting green Khejri trees that were considered sacred by the community, by hugging them, and braved the axes of loggers sent by the local ruler.
2. Sundarlal Bahuguna: A non-violent Gandhian, he was the proponent of Chipko movement (along with Chandi Prasad Bhatt), who played a crucial role in bringing the Garhwali women together. But that is not only thing he is known for, he also participated in Anti-Tehri Dam protests. His famous quote during Tehri Dam protests:
“The issue, is not development vs. environment. It is extinction vs. survival.”
3. Anil Aggarwal: No list about Indian environmentalists is complete without Anil Aggarwal. He is the guy who scoffed at why India needed a NGO like Greenpeace (a NGO that I avidly follow) to take up their causes. Why can’t we Indians do enough for our own causes? He founded India’s leading environment NGO Centre for Science and Environment. He has more than 20 books to his credit on the subject of environment. He also founded the environment magazine Down to Earth, which is today published by Sunita Narain (another environmentalist). You can find more about the man here.
4. Medha Patkar: This leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan is daughter of a freedom fighter. She has got a Masters degree in Social Work from reputed Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that she has put to good use her entire life. It was during a study tour at TISS that she first toured the Narmada valley. Taken in by the plight of people around there, she dedicated her entire life to this cause. She has been on more than 300 fasts and her doctor says more fasts may cause permanent detriment to her health.
5. Kinkri Devi: In 1980s this Dalit lady, who was once an illiterate sweeper, (you dare not look down upon them again) waged a war against illegal mining and quarrying in Himachal Pradesh. Backed by a NGO, she filed a suit against 48 mine owners. When her law suit got no response, she went on 19-day hunger strike outside court to protest. It was then she became a celebrity. In 1987, the court ordered a stay on mining and imposed a blanket ban on blasting in the hills. Bravo, Kinkri Devi. It’s a shame if we forget her.
6. Rag pickers: This is the bonus one. There are numerous of rag pickers working around the country to keep our cities and towns clean. I wrote this heart-rending post about child rag pickers. But not only child, many adult men and women who are poor and illiterate are in this profession. They are not beggars, they earn their living hard way. And they contribute to environment. Just a day back, Pune Mirror covered this rag picker lady (from Pune of course) who went to Bangkok for a conference to represent her Indian community.
There are many more Indian environmentalist that I didn’t list like Pamposh Bhatt, Maneka Gandhi, John C Jacob (who set up Kerala-based Society for Environment Education (SEEK) ), Sunita Narain (who now heads CSE), Pradip Kishen (who wrote an expensive book called Trees of Delhi), Kartikeya V Sarabhai (Son of late revered scientist Vikram Sarabhai) and Rajendra K. Pachauri (who shared Nobel Prize with Al Gore).