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IAS Mains Indian History Notes: Major Environmental Movements

Last Updated - January 11, 2017

The contemporary India encounters a practically unlimited misuse of assets due to the bait of new consumerist ways of life. This create disruption in Nature’s Balance. This led to many disputes in the society. Through this post, we will discuss about the major movements that took place in India for the environment protection.

What is Environmental Movement?

An environment movement can be political or social movement, which is started for the improvement of the conditions of environment. It can also be said as green Movement or conservative movements.

The environment movements are about the sustainable management of natural resources.

Majorly the movements are focused on the preserving of environment through changing of Public Policy.

Environmental movements can be local or global

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Major Environmental Movements in India

Below are the major environmental movements listed which happened during 1700 to 2000.

  1. Bishnoi Movement

Year1700s
PlaceKhejarli, Marwar, Rajasthan
LeaderAmrita Devi
AimSave sacred trees from being cut down by the emperors’ soldiers

Description: Amrita Devi, a female villager could able to see the destruction of village’s sacred trees. She started a movement by hugging trees and also encourage other villagers to do same.363 Bishnoi Villages were killed in the movement. The Bishnoi tree martyrs were influence by the Guruji Maharaj Jambaji’s teachings. He founded the Bishnoi faith in 1485 and set principles for forbidding harm to trees and animals. The king when came to know about the incidences happened, he rushed to village and apologized about the incidences. After that he ceased his operations in that village and made Bishnoi state as protected area. This rule still exist today in the region.

  1. Chipko Movement

Year1973
PlaceChamoli District later to Tehri- Garhwal districts in Uttarakhand
LeaderSunderlal Bhahuguna
AimTo protect trees on Himalayan slopes to be cut down by contractors

Description: Sunderlal Bahuguna influence the importance of trees among the villagers. He said that the trees are important for the environment as they checks the soil erosion, cause rain and provide fresh air. The women in Advani Village in Tehri- Garhwal tied the sacred thread around the tree and they hugger the trees. Therefore the movement is known as Chipko Movement.  The protest was against the contractors and authorities who were benefitting from the cutting down of trees. The movement gathered momentum in 1978 when women faced police firings and other tortures. The then state CM, Hemwati Nadan Bahuguna formed a committee to look into the matter and the results were in the favor of villagers. Because of its non-violent means this became the turning point in the eco-development struggles around the world.

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  1. Save Silent Valley Movement

Year1978
PlaceSilent Valley, Palakkad District, Kerala
LeaderKerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (NGO) and Sughathakumari
AimThe Moist Evergreen forest from being destroyed by hydroelectric project

Description: The Kerala State Electricity Board proposed a project of hydroelectric dam on Kunthipuzha River that runs through Silent Valley. In February 1973, the authorities approved the project at the cost of 25 crores. People feared that this project would submerged the 8.3 sq km of moist evergreen forest. Several NGOs opposed the projects. In January 1981, Indira Gandhi declared the Silent Valley will be protected place under the public pressure. In 1983 the project was called off and in 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inaugurated the Silent Valley National Park.

  1. Jungle Bachao Andholan

Year1982
PlaceSinghbhum District of Bihar
LeadersTribals of Singhbhum
AimAgainst Govt. decision to replace Natural Sal Forest with Teak

Description: The tribal people of Singhbhum district of Bihar began the protection when the Govt. decided to replace the natural sal forests with highly priced teak. This move by the Govt. is also called as “Greed Game Political Populism”. This movement had seen rebellion, Victory and Loss of tribal people. The movement started to spread nearby states Jharkhand and Orissa.

  1. Narmada Bachao Andholan

Year1985
PlaceNarmada River
LeadersBaba Amte and Medha Patker
AimMovement against the building of large number of Dams

Description: the movement first began as the protest for not giving the proper shelter to those who had been displaced by the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam. Later on the movement focus changes on the preservation of eco system of the valley. Activists also demanded the height of Dam should be 88 m which is less than the proposed height of dam, 130m. As consequence of the movement world bank withdrew from the project.

All the issues were taken in to court. In October 2000, supreme court announced its jugdement of approving the height of Dam to 90 m which is higher than the demanded height. But it is lower than 130m. The project is now financed by state govts. And market borrowings. It is expected to be complete by 2025.

Although the movement was not successful, but Narmada Bachao Andholan has created an anti big dam opinion in India and outside. It was nonviolent movement. It questions the paradigm approach of development.


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