Environmentalism – History of the Environmental Movements in India

Environmental Movements is an important topic for the Civil Services Examination, for both Preliminary and Mains Examination. And you can learn all about them from this article.  

environmental moments

India has many Environmental issues like different kinds of pollution – air pollution, water pollution, non-decomposable or degradable garbage disposal, etc. While these are all human-made, there are a lot of environmental changes occurring, causing drastic changes in the nature, effecting not just India but the whole world. 

Environmental Movement 

Environmental Movement, also called ecology movement, is a diverse movement for addressing environmental issues on philosophical, social and political grounds. A range of organizations, varying from country to country, represent this international movement. 

Every country has different environmental concerns with different beliefs and political standings, hence having a different goal. So, the Environmental Movements are not always united in their aims and objectives. 

Origin of Environmental Movement 

The increasing level of smoke pollution during the times of Industrial Revolution lay the foundations of the Environmental Movement. Factories emerged in great numbers and coal consumption increased in immense amount, caused an unprecedented increase in air pollution. There was growing load of untreated human waste and there was immense amount of chemical discharge from industries. This paved the path to the first Environmental Movement. 

What are the Major Environmental Movements in India? 

Though India has a history of addressing the environmental issues and trying to improve them faster than many countries in the world, we still have a long way to go since pollution remains a major challenge for us. Resources are being exploited unrestrictedly in the present-day, thanks to consumerism, the current-day lifestyle. This is causing a huge disruption of balance in nature. 

There are 7 major environmental movements in India during the period from 1700 to 2000 that are important to keep knowledge of. Let’s look at each of them in detail. 

Bishnoi Movement 

This movement took place in the 1730 and was carried out by a religious group called Bishnoi. It is based on 29 Hindu principles and are committed towards conservation of the environmental. In 1730, the soldiers who were sent to Khejarli village by the Maharaja of Jodhpur to cut down trees for the purpose of gathering wood. This anguished the Bishnois, on confronting the soldiers and died hugging the trees of the Khejarli forest which they considered sacred. About 363 Bishnois got killed in this movement. The Maharaja, who wasn’t aware of their sacred beliefs, rushed to the Bishnois to apologize and cease the operation of tree logging. Soon after that, the Bishnoi state was made into a protected area where no trees or animals could be harmed. 

Chipko Movement 

This movement, led by Sundarlal Bahuguna and others, took place in 1970s and 1980s, in the Chamoli District and Tehri-Garhwal District of Uttarakhand. It had many objectives like protecting the trees over the Himalayan slopes, large dams, Unregulated mining and its social and environmental impacts. Sundarlal Bahuguna brought people together in protecting by educating them about how trees can control soil erosion, provide oxygen and influence rainfall. 

People would tie a sacred thread around the trees and hug them, hence the name ‘Chipko Movement’. The demands of the people were that the benefits of the forests should go to the people. But, no one listened to them in the beginning, and villagers had to face police violence. A committee was set up later, after which the ruling was passed in favor of the villagers. Chipko Movement is a turning point in the whole history of environmental struggles of the world. 

Save Silent Valley Movement 

This movement took place in 1978, in waves of protests against a hydroelectric project that was being carried out on the river Kunthipuzha of Kerala, destroying the moist evergreen forest – Silent Valley. Silent valley was home to many rare species of flora and fauna. This movement is the first of its kind, that brought international attention towards forests. Poet and activist Sughatha Kumari and an NGO in Kerala called Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) played an important role in voicing the movement after which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi denied permission to that project, declaring that the Silent Valley will be protected. 

Jungle Bachao Movement 

This movement took place in 1982, in Singhbhum district of Bihar by their tribal leaders when the government decided to replace the Sal forests with expensive Teak. Though started in Bihar, this movement spread to Odisha and Jharkhand later on. This movement is referred to as ‘Green Game Political Populism’. 

Appiko Movement 

This movement took place in 1983, in Utthara Kannada and Shimoga districts of Karnataka, against deforestation and commercialization of forests, ruining the natural livelihood since the ancient times. This is like the southern version of the ‘Chipko Movement’, where the locals would hug the trees that were going to be cut by the government. Various techniques were used by the Appiko movement for spreading awareness like foot marches in the forests, folk dances, slide shows, street plays, etc. Other aims of the movement were promoting afforestation, using the ecosphere rationally by use of alternative resources, thereby reducing the use of forest wood. 

Narmada Bachao Movement 

This movement took place in 1985, against the multipurpose dam project – Sardar Sarovar Dam, that was going to be built on the Narmada River, displacing people without any resettlement and rehabilitation. As a result of the protests, the projected was postponed back then as the world bank withdrew from the project. But now, the project is highly financed by government and is expected to be finished by 2025.  

Tehri Dam Movement 

This movement took place in 1990s against the hydroelectric project, Tehri Dam project, in the Bhagirathi River of Tehri, Uttarakhand. It was a protest against the project displacing the inhabitants, and causing ecological imbalance and serious environmental consequences. This movement was not successful even with the support from prominent leaders like Sundarlal Bahuguna and others. 

Apart from these Major movements, there have been protests in the recent times in regard with preservation of environment. Like, the Delhi protests in 2018 and Aarey Forest protests in 2019, both against deforestation. 

Delhi Protests 

In 2018, there were a series of protests for reforestation of south delhi after cutting down 14,000 trees. This was yet another ‘Chipko movement’ with 1500 people came together, hugging trees and shouting slogans against the government in Sarojini Nagar. 

Aarey Forest Protests 

In 2019, around 29 people were arresting in protests against cutting down of 2500 trees in the Aarey Forest, an important area for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation. After a series of protests, Supreme Court ordered the release of the activists and declined permission to cut anymore trees. 

 This is all one need to know about the Major Environmental Movements in India for the IAS Exam. For more information on other topics for the IAS exam, or tips to follow, subscribe to our blog posts. 


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