An Eminent Environmentalist Sundar Lal Bahugana Dies at 93

An Eminent Environmentalist Sundar Lal Bahugana Dies at 93

My wife Vimala, who was a follower of Sarla Behn, Gandhiji’s disciple and a pioneer of women’s empowerment in India, had put to me the condition before marriage that I would have to leave politics and work for social development in the remote villages,” Sundarlal Bahuguna.

Sundar Lal Bahuguna was known for his role in the Chipko Movement (hugging the trees), a major environmental and social movement that began in 1973 and encouraged local communities especially women to come out of their households and prevent tree felling in the Himalayas. The movement later received the 1987 Right Livelihood Award, often known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.

However, it was Gaura Devi’s monumental contribution that made Chipko Movement grab the world’s attention. Click here to read more on Gaura Devi.

As part of an early 1980s campaign against the large-scale deforestation of the Himalayas, Bahuguna had undertaken a 5,000km march from Kashmir to Kohima. The initiative led to legislation to protect some areas of the Himalayan forests. He was also a staunch opponent of the Tehri Dam project in Uttarakhand and defended the right of rivers to flow unhindered.

He once said in the context of Tehri dam: “If the next generation of India has to survive, then the greenery of Himalaya and the purity of Ganga need to be protected…Ganga doesn’t just belong to three states but to the whole nation. Big dams should not be built at all.”

The environmental activist undertook several ‘padyatras’ to create awareness among people about conserving the Himalayan ecology and environment. He was also one of the most vocal critics of luxury tourism in the Himalayas and the construction of hotels which according to him did irreparable harm to the fragile Himalayan ecology.

The activist and the reformer Sundarlal Bahugana breathed his last on Friday at AIIMS Rishikesh after having caught the coronavirus infection.

The “Water Man of India” Dr. Rajendra Singh while paying tribute to the departed soul said, “It was Bahuguna and his pioneering work that saved dense forests in the upper regions of Himalayas — the region was declared an eco-sensitive zone; national parks were established and people paid attention to saving the Himalayan glaciers because of him.”


Written by Prakriti S

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