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From Save Western Ghats March to Narmada Bachao Andolan, five movements that aimed at creating awareness for nature conservation

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Observed since 5 June, World Environment Day aims at raising awareness and generating political momentum around growing environmental concerns. First established in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly, the day highlights issues such as the depletion of the ozone layer, the danger of toxic chemicals, and global warming.

India too has seen its fair share of environmental movements that aim to create awareness about nature and protect the abundant flora and fauna. From the Bishnoi movement to the Narmada Banchao Andolan, here are 5 environmental movements in India.

Bishnoi Movement

A Hindu sect found in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India, the Bishnois follow the principles laid down by Guru Jambeshwar. In 1730, 363 Bishnoi men, women and children sacrificed their lives trying to protect hundreds of Khejri trees that the king’s men had come to cut down to fuel the cement lime kilns for the palace. This came to be known as the Bishnoi movement.

Chipko movement

The Chipko movement was a non-violent social and ecological agitation in rural India during the 1970s. It was aimed at protecting trees and forests that were slated for government-backed logging. The movement started in the then Himalayan region of Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand). The event is perhaps best known for the collective mobilisation of women who acted to preserve forests. The word chipko means to embrace, an act that the villagers did to prevent trees from getting hacked.

 From Save Western Ghats March to Narmada Bachao Andolan, five movements that aimed at creating awareness for nature conservation

Image credit: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace

Silent Valley Movement

In 1976, the Kerala State Electricity Board announced plans to begin the construction of a 240 MW hydroelectric project over the Kunthipuzha river flowing through the Palakkad and Malappuram districts. This soon led to a wave of protests.

Led by the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad, the movement highlighted the extreme damage the project would cause by submerging 530 hectares of pristine evergreen forests of the Silent Valley that were home to innumerable flora and fauna.

This led to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi directing the state government to abandon the project in 1980. She would go on to declare the area a National Park.

Narmada Bachao Andolan

Led by Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan is perhaps the longest living non-violent movement in the world. Supported by farmers, environmentalists, and human rights activists, the movement is aimed against a number of large dam projects across river Narmada. The Narmada Bachao Andolan, with its leading spokespersons Medha Patkar and Baba Amte, received the Right Livelihood Award in 1991.

Save the Western Ghats March

The Save the Western Ghats March was a landmark event in environmental activism in India and saw active involvement of more than 150 organisations. Led by Kumar Kalanand Mani, it aimed at generating awareness among the people about ecology and related issues like denudation of forests, preservation of wildlife, natural resources etc.

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