By : Manpreet Kaur

A Tribute to India’s Best – Known Environmental Activist On World Environment Day

Sunderlal Bahuguna was India’s best-known Environmental activist who died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences on Friday 21st May this year, after battling COVID-19. As per reports from
reliable sources, he was admitted to the hospital on May 8th after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 94 years old. According to the reports, he had been critical & admitted in ICU since Thursday night & his oxygen level was dropping badly. He breathed his last at 12:05 pm as per AIIMS Director. This news is really heartbreaking, Indians had lost a great environmental activist, a very humble person and a nature lover. Sunderlal Bahuguna will be remembered as a man of the earth, who worked all his life to save the earth, to save the lives. He is survived
by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

Sunderlal Bahuguna: Born in 1927 in Tehri district now Uttarakhand, Bahuguna grew up surrounded by sal, oak and fir trees and sweeping pasture lands. He was the man who taught Indians to hug trees, to love & protect the environment. He was the main leader of the Chipko movement in northern India in 1970. It was Sunderlal Bahuguna who made this movement a movement of masses. This powerful movement i.e Chipko Movement that brought to the world’s attention  the devastation buttoned up by the environmental crisis in high mountains. Not surprisingly, the Chipko movement became an important milestone in the fight to secure women’s rights. The movement  later received the 1987, Right LivelihoodAward often called the “Alternative Nobel
Prize”. Over the years, Bahuguna, with his flowing beard and trademark bandana, went from strength to strength. His continuous efforts to save the environment by his different peaceful approach, by awareness, by awakening society made a significant change in our country and people’s perception about environment and its care.

Bahuguna sir and his wife Vimla ji, participated in many tree hugging campaigns, it yielded results and so many students, great number of women joined him as a team to do volunteer roles under
his guidance. They went on fasts, hugged trees during devastating attacks on trees. He and his team staged peaceful demonstrations with positive contributions. As a result, when their team fasts in 1981, their peaceful act against the destructive people by fasting led to fifteen years ban on commercial felling of trees in Uttarakhand (his birthplace). As per reports from, it has been found that, in 1992, he shaved his head & went on a fast to protest at the Tehri dam which was India’s tallest dam. He actually was on of the person among those who lost their ancestral properties due to this dam’s construction. He was against the system, against the actions which were responsible for the destruction of the environment, which were created by the cost of cutting tress, destroying the balance of the nature.

He was such a great leader, a campaigner who never stopped lecturing, never stop doing awareness in the society, raised voices against the polluted minded selfless people, railing against
the collusion of forest officials & private contractors in decimating, destroying forests. He was indeed a gentle & softspoken person. As per reports, it has been found that in his words, to become energy secure in a “non-violent and permanent society”, he said, India needed to produce biogas from human waste, harvest solar and wind energy and hydro power from the run of the river. Well! with his fruitful contributions to save the earth, in 2017, activists in Mumbai hugged trees to protect more than three thousands of them being axed to make way for a metro railroad. This has been proved that people got awareness from his actions and efforts. As per reports, it also has been found that young men took an oath in blood to protect nature and people, fellow activists
joined him & they began embracing trees to stop destruction.

Bahuguna was a charismatic leader, a man of Gandhian principles. He lived in a small ashram, against violence and was essentially non-political. He believed in self-reliance and not involved foreign trade & others. He was selfless away from the materialistic things. We are doing violence towards the earth, towards nature. We have become butchers of nature,” Sunderlal Bahuguna once told an interviewer. Bahuguna had refused the Padma Shri one in protest against the government’s Himalayan policy.

In his interview, as per reports of the telegraph, referring to climate change, he had warned: “I don’t know the timeline, but the glaciers are receding in the mountains faster than earlier “. As per reports from reliable sources, in an interview, “I was influenced by Mira Behn. I left the politics & joined social movement-it was turning point in my life”. His wife Vimala, who was a follower of Sarala Behn, had put a condition before marrying Bahuguna that he had to leave politics and work for social development in the remote areas. It is truly inspiring story.

As per the reports from the telegraph, it has been found that Bahuguna lineage is Bengali, the family were Bandhopadhyay. Generations ago, one of his ancestors had moved to Uttar Pradesh from Bengal in search of work and cured a king with his Ayurvedic medicines. The grateful King gifted him an area called Bahuguna, and the family over time took on the name of its new estate. Sunderlal Bahuguna will always be remembered for his strong ecological thinking and its application in various ways. His wife Vimala ji played an important role in his initiatives and contributions towards the care of the earth. He had a very close connection with the community.

This article is paying tribute to Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna ji on the Environmental Day. Sir! you will remain alive in many hearts

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