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50 Years of Chipko Movement, History, Causes and Impact

50 Years of Chipko Movement

The Chipko Movement, a pivotal moment in environmental activism, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Chipko Movement began in the early 1970s in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand (then part of Uttar Pradesh). This movement was sparked by massive deforestation due to commercial logging by outside contractors and inspired by the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan, known for protecting trees.

Chipko Movement

The nonviolent Chipko movement also referred to as the Chipko Andolan, was established in the Himalayan area of Uttarakhand in 1973. Since the term “chipko” literally translates to “hug,” the movement got its name from protesters who hugged trees to defend them from loggers. Peasants in rural India, particularly women, started this environmental campaign in the 1970s.

To protect woods and trees from governmental-sponsored logging was the Chipko movement’s main goal. You will learn about the Chipko Movement in this article, which will help you prepare for the UPSC Exam by helping you understand the Environment Subject of the UPSC Syllabus.

History of Chipko Movement

It is a social-ecological organization that hugged trees to prevent them from falling and used Gandhian techniques like satyagraha and nonviolent resistance. Early in the 1970s, as concerns about rapid deforestation grew in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal Himalayas, the contemporary Chipko movement was born. In response to the danger posed by the state Forest Department’s contractor system, a group of peasant women in Uttarakhand, India’s Reni village, Hemwalghati, Chamoli district, and Hemwalghati took action on March 26, 1974, to stop tree cutting and reclaim their customary forest rights.

Thousands of other grassroots activities in the area were inspired by their actions. The movement gained traction in India by the 1980s, and as a result, people-sensitive forest policies were created, ending open tree-cutting in places like the Vindhyas and the Western Ghats.

Chipko Movement Causes

  • After the Sino-Indian border dispute was settled in 1963, development increased, especially in the rural Himalayan regions of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • The interior routes created during the conflict attracted numerous foreign logging corporations seeking access to the region’s abundant forest resources.
  • Although the rural villagers heavily relied on the forests for subsistence—directly, for food and fuel, and indirectly, for services like water purification and soil stabilization—the government’s policy prevented them from managing the lands and barred them from accessing the lumber.
  • The clear-cutting of forests decreased agricultural yields, caused erosion, depleted water supplies, and raised flooding in a significant percentage of the nearby communities. Commercial logging operations were frequently poorly managed. This was the impetus behind the Chipko Movement.

Chipko Movement Leaders

One of the most striking aspects of Chipko was the extensive participation of female villagers. Due to the agrarian economy that was the backbone of Uttarakhand, women were most directly affected by environmental deterioration and deforestation, making it easier for them to connect to the problems. How much this engagement impacted or resulted from Chipko’s beliefs has been fiercely debated in academic circles.

Despite this, both male and female activists played significant roles in the fight, including Gaura Devi, Sudesha Devi, and Ghanasyam Raturi, a Chipko poet whose songs are still popular in the Himalayan region. Sunderlal Bahuguna received the Padma Vibhushan in 2009, and Chandi Prasad Bhatt received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1982.

6 Principles of Chipko Movement

The Chipko movement had a set of core principles that guided their activism and demands. These principles addressed ecological and social aspects of forest conservation.

Principle Details
Sustainable Forestry Practices
  • Chipko activists believed that only specific trees and vegetation should be cultivated in particular geographic regions in order to meet the necessary requirements for fertilizer, soil, water, and energy.
  • This meant promoting tree species best suited to the local environment and avoiding disruptive changes to the ecosystem.
Protecting Ecologically Sensitive Areas
  • The activists demanded that the areas affected by landslides and soil erosion, or where forests are crucial for protecting water resources, should be identified and designated as protected areas.
  • This helped to conserve fragile ecosystems and prevent natural disasters.
Community Rights and Access
  • The local forest dwellers and those who live nearby and rely on forested goods for their subsistence should be granted rights and easy access to them.
  • This principle ensured that the communities that depended on the forests for their livelihood had a say in their management and benefited from their sustainable use
Eliminating Contractor System
  • In terms of forest growth, exploitation, and conservation, the contractor system needed to be totally abandoned. Instead, community participation should be organized and encouraged among residents of these regions.
  • The Chipko movement argued that the contractor system led to unsustainable practices and that local communities had a vested interest in protecting the forests.
Local Village Industries
  • To provide employment opportunities for the local people and to stop villagers from leaving, local village industries based on minor forest products should be established.
  • This principle aimed to address the economic needs of local communities and provide them with alternatives to activities that might harm the forests.
Environmental Policy and Participation
  • The Chipko movement believed that people’s participation in environmental policies was crucial.
  • They advocated for a more collaborative approach to forest management where local communities had a say in the decisions that affected their lives and environment.

Impact of Chipko Movement

The Chipko Movement finally saw success in 1980 after ten years of ferocious demonstrations. Additionally, the government imposed a 15-year ban on felling trees in the Himalayan woods of Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, the ban on green-felling extended to forests in the Vindhyas and Western Ghats.

Along with this movement, it contributed to a greater understanding of forest rights and the ability of grassroots action to influence governmental decisions. Additionally, according to the yearly State of Forests Report 2017, India’s forest cover grew somewhat between 2015 and 2017. It served as a significant source of inspiration for the massive Appiko Movement in the Western Ghats, which boosted support for other initiatives fighting environmental destruction.

Chipko Movement and Sundarlal Bahuguna

Sundarlal Bahuguna, a well-known Gandhian, is the movement’s head. (1927–2021). Additionally, he is attributed with coming up with the Chipko slogan, “Ecology is the Permanent Economy.” Later, during the 1970s Chipko movement, he propagated the notion that ecology and habitats are more important.

Sundarlal Bahuguna Image

He also thought that the environment and the economy should coexist. Sundarlal Bahuguna enlightened the locals by highlighting the importance of trees in the environment because they stop soil erosion, create clean air, and bring about rain. Prime Minister Gandhi’s choice to enact the 1980 green-felling ban was also influenced by Bahuguna.

Chipko Movement UPSC

An eco-feminist movement that sticks out is the Chipko Andolan. Women made up the core of the movement because they were the group most immediately impacted by the lack of firewood and drinking water brought on by deforestation. Protest is a crucial and effective force for societal change. Rapid deforestation in 2017 over the century-old trees that almost formed a canopy in Jessore Road of the district of North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, also sparked a large movement that resulted in a campaign by the local population to save 4000 trees, following in the footsteps of the Chipko movement. Read all about UPSC Exam preparation by visiting the official website of StudyIQ UPSC Online Coaching. To enhance preparation for UPSC Students can go for the UPSC Mock test of StudyIQ.

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Chipko Movement FAQs

Who first started Chipko movement?

The Chipko movement was started by Sunderlal Bahuguna in the Garhwal forests.

Who were the 3 leaders of Chipko movement?

Major leaders of Chipko movement are :
1. Gaura Devi,
2. Sudesha Devi,
3. Bachni Devi and
4. Chandi Prasad Bhatt.

Why is it called Chipko movement?

In the 1970s, an organized resistance to the destruction of forests spread throughout India and came to be known as the Chipko movement.

Where did Chipko movement started?

Chipko movement first starts in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

Which village is known as Chipko Andolan?

The first Chipko protest occurred near the village of Mandal in the upper Alaknanda valley in April 1973.

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