At a time when environmental concerns have been intensified due to mass axing of green trees for developmental works in Uttarakhand like the all-weather road project, the 45thanniversary of the Chipko Movement was marked also by Google which put up a doodle to commemorate the environmental protection movement started decades ago by the people of Garhwal. Citing this movement, an online petition was also launched for protection of Mumbai’s Aarey forest on Monday.
March 26 is a date in the history of this mountain region which brought it on the global map as far as environmental conservation movements go. It was on this day more than four decades ago when people around the world came to know of an initiative which inspired many environment conservation efforts worldwide. On March 26 in 1974 when 27 women and girls from Reni village in Chamoli district prevented their community forest felled. They were led by Gaura Devi and their actions motivated a decade of “Chipko” actions by women throughout this mountain region, apart from inspiring environmental conservation movements across the globe. The world-famous “Chipko” movement took place in the Lata and Reni villages in the vicinity of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve.
Gaura Devi led the first all-women action to save the community forest and mobilised the women of this region to protect their natural heritage. During the activism phase of Chipko in the 1970s, the alertness and courage of Uttarakhandi women saved may forests and earned them a place in the history of the global environmental movement. Standing in front of the trees that had been marked for felling, Gaura Devi addressed the men: “Brothers! This forest is the source of our livelihood. If you destroy it, the mountain will come tumbling down onto our village.” She then placed herself in front of a gun brandished by one of the men. “This forest nurtures us like a mother; you will only be able to use your axes on it if you shoot me first.” Initially met with abuse and threats, the women refused to move out of the way of the lumbermen. Since the men contracted to cut the trees were mountain farmers from the niehgbouring state of Himachal Pradesh who understood well what the women were talking about, they soon lost the motivation to carry out their work and after a three-day stand off, they withdrew without cutting the trees. From this action, the Chipko movement emerged as a movement in defence of traditional forest rights. Gaura Devi passed away in the mountain village of Reni at the age of 66 years in 1991. However, the movement she motivated has continued to inspire environmental conservation even now. To mark the 45 anniversary of the movement on Monday, Google put up a doodle remembering the movement and those involved in it. It shows four women forming a chain around a tree in a protective gesture. Also marking the occasion, an online petition was also launched asking people to take inspiration from the Chipko Movement and do the needful to save Mumbai’s Aarey forest.