2 June 1956: Mani Ratnam, renowned Indian film director, was born

YB WEB DESK. Dated: 6/2/2020 10:42:23 AM

Sunderlal Bahuguna, a leader of the Chipko and anti-big dam movements and one of India’s foremost environmental activists, was born on January 9, 1927 in Maroda village near Tehri in Uttarakhand. When he was 13 he met Dev Suman, a freedom fighter from Garhwal and was attracted to the nationalist cause especially using Gandhian methods of civil disobedience. He started distributing pamphlets and organising meetings and protests in the hill regions. At 18 he went to Lahore to study. He also campaigned for the rights of Harijans to enter temples. When he married 23-year-old Vimla they decided to live in a village and establish an ashram in the hills. Later he led a campaign against the consumption of liquor in and around Tehri. In the 1960s he turned his attention to protection of forests and tree cover in the Himalayas. In the 1970s a movement that originated in the Himalayas became a rallying point for environmentalists in India and beyond and today is seen as a seminal event in the country’s modern environment movement. This was the Chipko movement. There was a growing peaceful agitation against felling of trees in the Garhwal Himalayas in the beginning of that decade. A flashpoint was reached on March 26, 1974 when a group of village women in Chamoli district resorted to hugging trees to prevent them from being felled. The protest soon spread far and wide. In the early 1980s Bahuguna made the movement even more popular by undertaking a 5,000-kilometre march through the Himalayas. He visited hundreds of villages in the region to spread awareness and gather support for the cause. He also met the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, a meeting that is said to have paved the way for a ban on felling of green trees for 15 years in the region. The other major campaign which Bahuguna spearheaded was against the Tehri Dam along the Bhagirathi river and the adverse ecological effects it would cause. He went on several hunger strikes against the construction of the dam including a month-and-a-half fast during the tenure of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. However, despite the years of peaceful protests, work re-started on the dam and in 2004 when the dam reservoir started filling up, he was forced to move to Koti, a little hillock near the river. He told rediff.com in an interview: “It [building the dam] is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. It will benefit the richest farmer, it will uproot the forests of Tehri. The benefits will go to the rich farmers of Western UP and to Delhi’s residents. They say the dam will withstand earthquakes.

 

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