Sunderlal Bahuguna, known as the man who taught Indians to hug trees and to respect and protect the environment, died on Thursday at the age of 94. It’s saddening to see that the person who put out an alarm signal for the world upon how the environment is dying everyday is no more. He was one of the prosperous leaders of ‘The Chipko Movement’.
The movement started in the Northern India in the 1970s where people started hugging trees to prevent loggers from cutting them. It was headed by Bahuguna and a powerful activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt. The Chipko Movement brought attention to the devastation caused by environment degradation in the world’s highest mountains, The Himalayas.
Bahuguna grew up in the Himalayas was insightful enough to connect the dots together. He explained that deforestation led to soil erosion and hence, destroyed the natural land used for farming. He wrote about how this deterioration is forcing men to go out in the cities to find jobs.
This kind of shifted all the responsibilities onto the women of the village. They had to collect fodder, firewood and water, farming and all the other household tasks. The movement was led on by women, where they started hugging the trees and shooing away the loggers. The women of the village also tried the ‘Raksha Bandhan’ onto the bark of the trees as a symbol of gratitude for everything trees do to protect us and our survival.
Bahuguna went over places demonstrating his peaceful protest. He was joined by other nature activists, college students and women in great numbers. Their silent protest yielded results, in 1981, a 15-year ban on commercial felling of trees in Uttarakhand was passed.
Two years later, he trailed 4,000 Km in the Himalayas to attract attention to the increasing environmental degradation. In 1992, he went on to fast to protest at the Tehri dam, being one of those who lost their ancestral homes. Born in 1927, His ideologies have always inspired people around the world. He lived in a small ashram and always cherished living with the forests.