“The solution of present-day problems lie in the re-establishment of a harmonious relationship between man and nature.”- Sunderlal Bahuguna
The renowned leader of the Chipko Movement, Sunderlal Bahuguna passed away on 21st May 2021 due to COVID complication at AIMS Hospital in Rishikesh. The legacy he has left for the eco-movement in India is priceless. It was him who proposed that an ecocentric economy must be of importance instead of an egocentric economy.He along with his wife Vimla Bahuguna has led numerous peaceful protests against government policies to protect the environment and its resources including the Chipko Movement and the protest against the construction of the Tehri dam.
Sunderlal Bahuguna was born in 1927 in Uttarakhand. From a very early age, he was influenced by Gandhian principles and started off his social commitments through a protest against untouchability. Later being aware of the loss of forests in the Himalayas led him to start the revolutionary Chipko Movement. He understood that women and nature closely interrelated and he led his protests for the protection of nature through women and this more or less strengthened the eco-feminism movement in India.He firmly believed in the three Gandhian principles of Swaraj, Swadeshi and Satyagraha. He believed that each village should have the freedom to produce and to decide for their development.He became the voice for mother earth. As he said” Politicians have loudspeakers.But who will speak for the trees that will be cut? Who will come forward for the dying river? Who will protect the mountains? It is now time to hear the voice of the tree being cut, the voice of the river,the scream of the mountain that is sliding.”
Though he primarily worked for the protection of the Himalayan ecosystem and the Ganga river system, He has led and strengthened environmental movements in different parts of the country as well as the world. This includes the Appiko movement in the Western Ghats and the protest to protect forests in Nairobi and many more. He walked from Kashmir to Kohima, almost 5000 kms on foot in the 1970s to spread awareness about the need to protect trees and forests.
He was awarded Padmasree in 1981 and Padma Vibhushan in 2009. Together with Vandhana Shiva and Medha Patkar he has authored different books on the environment including the famous ‘ India’s environment: Myths and Reality’. His life is an inspiration and a true role model for all environmental activists in the country. Not just environmental activism, he influenced and convinced women about their rights and the need for them to lead such movements.He has led several anti-liquor protests also in the Himalayas.His passion, determination and love for nature have helped in saving forests around the world. He was a true eco-warrior in the true sense.