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Remembering Sunderlal Bahuguna, one of the architects of the Chipko movement

Padma Vibhushan Sunderlal Bahuguna began the Chipko Andolan with Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Gaura Devi in the 1970s. Twenty years later, he spearheaded the Anti-Tehri Dam movement.

May 22, 2021 / 11:18 AM IST

“We need a new Chipko movement to ensure clean air and pure water, which is only possible if we have abundant green cover. This mindless cutting of trees and increasing pollution is a serious issue. It’s a human rights issue, it’s really about survival of human beings now,” Sunderlal Bahuguna told me when I met him last in 2015 in Dehradun, a few days after his 88th birthday.

I was petulant enough to point out that there were no men in the mountains anymore as they had migrated to towns and the women were doing double-duty, managing their home as well as their farms, and who then would lead the new Chipko movement? I thought I had him there, but he was quick to retort, “Why don’t you start, by planting a few trees and talking to your friends in the city? Here take this sapling, plant it and take care of it; that is how you will start the new Chipko movement.”

Vimla-ji, his wife, smiled warmly and added, “Climate change, pollution, inequality, he has a simple solution to it all, plant trees, protect trees.”

On May 21, at the age of 94, Sunderlal Bahuguna passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, where he was undergoing treatment for COVID-19.