What is Chipko Movement?

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Drawing depicting a woman embracing a tree to prevent it from being cut

What is Chipko Movement?

Just imagine earth without trees? Simple, life will end because trees play a vital role in human’s life, it balances oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and gives oxygen which human beings depend upon to survive. Peoples’ greed for monetary gain has led to a senseless felling of tress which is causing serious health and environmental hazard. Healthy life needs healthy environment and being knowledgeable about issues relating to environment and its conservation plays a huge role in supporting the cause of saving the tress from felling, which in other words is a way of keeping oneself fit and healthy. In India a pioneering movement to safe guard the trees from felling was started under the “Chipko Movement”. It has contributed hugely in furthering environmental activism.


When did the Chipko Movement get started?

This Chipko Movement was started by group of villagers in Uttrakhand who opposed the cutting of trees. It is the first organised movement started in April 1972 to protect the trees against the commercial Forest Policy. Though this Chipko movement gained its prominence in 1970s, the real movement occurred in 1604, when a large number of villagers (from the Bishnoi community) embraced the trees in a forest (near Khejri village, close to Jodhpur) and prevented the king’s soldiers from cutting them down. The angered Jodhpur king ordered the soldiers to kill the Bishnois, while cutting down the trees, and as a result around 363 people lost their lives trying to protect their beloved Khejri trees (which are regarded as gods of the desert). That event has been recorded in Indian history as the Chipko Movement. Thus started, the Chipko Movement has now gained great significance throughout the world's conservationist circle for its successful attempts against deforestation. “Chipko” in local dialect means “to embrace” and refers to the method that has been applied to protect the forest from the commercial timber cutters. This revolutionary movement started by the villagers to save forests from deforestation soon got worldwide support and attention. Chipko Movement was very successful in influencing policy both at center and state level. The participants in Chipko Movement were primarily small town women who fought for their bread and communities, these women were determined to protect the forests from deforestation even at the cost of their lives. Gradually men also were involved in the Chipko Movement.


What is the current day impact of Chipko Movement?

Forest is an asset that provides survival for many Indian villagers where it is not merely in terms of fulfilling their basic needs but also in terms of livelihood. So when trees were felled indiscriminately for commercial and industrial purposes, villagers sought to protect their forests by following the Gandhian method of Satyagraha by hugging the trees when the axe man comes to cut it.


The fact that the villagers undertook to guard the forests from felling also side by side planting the saplings for the coming generations at the cost of their lives made Chipko Movement a worldwide phenomenon. When people questioned the villagers about their action, the villagers are known to have replied that if they plant a tree now it will bear fruits after many years where their children and grandchildren would eat its fruits even if they are no more. When it comes to understanding the Chipko Movement, women of Uttrakhand village would know it perfectly because this has been the way of looking at their forest which supports their lives, and so their sentiments will always be attached to Chipko movement.


Chipko Movement leader like Mr Sundarlal Bahuguna believed that, “Ecology is the permanent economy” and all his life he taught the villagers to protest against the destruction of the forest. There are many movements that formed to save natural resources inspired by Chipko Movement in India and abroad.


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