Blog Action Day 2009: Environment and India

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.
Chipko 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).

Related Posts:

My last year’s Blog Action Day Post: Poverty, Health and Population
Games and Activities for Environment
Building a Green House and Rain Water Harvesting
Fight to Save Yamuna

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16 Responses to “Blog Action Day 2009: Environment and India”


  1. 1 museditions October 16, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I hope you had a good B.A.D., Poonam. I’m so glad I came here and read your post. I had not heard of these people before. The five you wrote about are very inspiring, and it’s wonderful that you can point to such people from your own country. I agree that the efforts should be focused there, as India must know India’s issues best.
    Thank you for such an uplifting, yet poignant (regarding #6) post! 🙂

  2. 3 Vikas Gupta October 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I hate it when the sweepers in my hostel collect all the useful things from the hostel garbage. They don’t leave anything for the rag pickers! They find anything useful and sell it once a week!

  3. 4 Prats October 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Nice post. I only knew yesterday that you take BAD so religiously.

    But seriously we still have a far way to go as far as working for the benefit of environment is concerned.
    And India I hope would stand upto it in the time to come

  4. 6 Solilo October 16, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Loved reading this dedication to our environmentalists. I got John Jacob’s name wrong. 🙂

    Point 6. deserves to be in the list.

  5. 7 Destination Infinity October 16, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I knew only about point no. 1 and 6. It should have been a mammoth task for the lady to fast for so many days to persue the case legally against miners. I always respect such daring individual contributions… It is very hard to see why certain people cannot do small things that might make a big difference to the environment. Well written article…

    Destination Infinity

  6. 8 B K CHOWLA October 16, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Superb.You have given credit to a lot of deserving environmentalists.

  7. 9 Vimmuuu October 17, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Nicely written Poonam; different from the rest of the climate change posts !

  8. 10 Hypermom October 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Very nice post Poonam-you directed the spotlight on where it needs to be!

  9. 11 praneshachar October 19, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    nice one we can add one
    Salumarada Thimmakka who planed trees in row in karnataka and got national acclode a illiterate but done yeomen services
    three cheers to you poonam for bringing indians who have done country proud on this issue
    pranesh

  10. 13 Vee October 20, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Lage Raho Munni Bai….:D:D:D

  11. 14 Umesh October 22, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Its really nice to hear again from you and once again i think you have put up a commendable opinion.

    Adding to what you said, what the concept of green lacked was a perspective of economics. If things aren’t profitable, for mankind, earth, or for that matter anybody, it is not sustainable.

    Making the drive for green profitable, should be the endeavor. And believe me it is very much possible. This year December, as countries meet in Copenhagen to renew Kyoto Protocol, we can expect something good, given the decibel of rhetoric.

    Lets hope it works and our off springs live happily in peace..

    Cheerz..

  12. 15 shirishag75 October 22, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Poonam, just to bring you and your readers notice that there is a worldwide event on the 23rd October 2009.

    They are also celebrating the event here in Pune.

    http://www.350.org/action-list?country=in&city=Pune

    I have tried to get in touch with the organizers but haven’t heard anything till date. If you or anybody within your sphere of influence comes to know anything better, please lemme know as well.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  13. 16 aniruddha pathak October 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    good post poonam keep up the good work..i think its time each of us started making a contribution


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