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50 years of Chipko Movement of Uttarakhand Hills

Utkarsh Classes Last Updated 23-03-2024
50 years of Chipko Movement of Uttarakhand Hills Uttrakhand 7 min read

The Chipko movement, which began in Uttarakhand, a state in the Himalayas, in early 1973, marks its 50th anniversary.

Meaning of Chipko

  • In the 1970s, a protest movement started in Uttarakhand, India, to protect the trees from being cut down. 
  • The movement was named Chipko, which means "to hug" in Hindi. One of the protesters, Ghanshyam Sailani, recited a poem at a gathering that became the clarion call for the people to hug trees and save them from getting axed. The poem said, "Hug the trees to protect them from axes, let's preserve the true wealth of our hills."

About Chipko Movement

  • The Chipko movement of 1973 was a peaceful protest with the aim of protecting and conserving trees. However, it is perhaps best known for the inspiring collective action of women who rallied to preserve forests, and in doing so, brought about a shift in societal attitudes towards women. 
  • Originating in Chamoli district (now Uttarakhand) in Uttar Pradesh, the movement quickly spread to other northern states of India. 
  • The term 'chipko' was coined as a reference to the villagers' practice of embracing the trees and forming a protective circle around them to prevent their destruction.

Origin of Chipko Movement

  • It is a little-known fact that the Chipko Andolan, a movement to protect trees, originated in the 18th century through the actions of Rajasthan's Bishnoi community. 
  • The event gained historical significance due to the heroic sacrifice of a group of villagers, led by the courageous Amrita Devi, who lost their lives while defending trees from being cut down on the orders of the Jodhpur King. As a result, His Highness declared a royal decree prohibiting tree-cutting in all Bishnoi villages.

Reasons of Modern Chipko Movement

  • The modern Chipko movement was triggered by the surge in development that Uttar Pradesh experienced after the 1963 China border conflict. 
  • Foreign logging companies were attracted to the state's vast forest resources, which were the lifeblood of the villagers who relied on them for food and fuel. 
  • Widespread floods in 1970 were blamed on mismanagement due to commercial logging, and the government's policy of not allowing locals to cut trees for fuel wood or fodder further angered the villagers. 
  • The final straw was when a sports manufacturing company was allowed to cut trees for equipment, while locals were denied the same privilege. 
  • In 1973, environmentalist and social activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt led the first Chipko movement near the village of Mandal. When their appeals were ignored, Bhatt and a group of villagers embraced the trees to prevent logging. 

Women’s movement

  • This movement can be considered a women's movement because they were the most affected by the floods and landslides caused by deforestation.
  • The message of Chipko activists appealed directly to women, as they realized the connection between their suffering and the destruction of the mountains by commercial interests. Women supported the movement because it was a matter of their survival.

Leader of Chipko: Sunderlal Bahuguna

  • Sunderlal Bahuguna, an eco activist, dedicated his life to educating villagers and leading protests against the destruction of forests and Himalayan mountains. It was his unwavering commitment that led then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to ban the cutting of trees, a historic win for the Chipko Movement. 
  • Bahuguna's famous slogan, "ecology is the permanent economy," continues to inspire environmentalists today.
  • Throughout the 1970s, Uttarakhand saw numerous protests and clashes, with a total of 12 significant demonstrations and several smaller ones. However, the Chipko Movement's most significant victory came in 1980, when Bahuguna's request to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi resulted in a 15-year ban on commercial felling in the Himalayas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
  • In the 1980s, when it seemed that Chipko was reaching its end, Sundarlal Bahuguna embarked on a 4,800 km journey on foot from Kashmir to Kohima between 1981-83, raising awareness about the environmental degradation of the Himalayas in order to preserve the ecology of the entire region. 
  • He then cycled all the way from Gomukh to Gangasagar, tracing the Ganga river's path from its origin to its submergence in the sea.
  • In the late 1980s, Bahuguna and Vimla Bahuguna started another struggle against the construction of India's tallest dam project, the Tehri Dam Project, which lasted over a decade. Their tireless efforts and commitment to the environment continue to inspire new generations of activists.


Answer: Environmental Movement against the clearing forest

Answer: Pioneer of Chipko Movement

Answer: Uttarakhand

Answer: Sunderlal Bahuguna
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