The ‘Chipko Movement’— which focussed world attention on the environmental problems of the Alakananda catchment area in the mid-Western Himalayas– was a movement of the local people to resist the deforestation attempt on the hill slopes in the name of the developmental programme of the area.
In 1960, from the point of view of border security, a vast network of roads was constructed in this area besides taking up projects of various other types. All this was disastrous for the forests and also the total environment of the area. Felling of trees and rolling them down hills loosened the upper soil which eroded further during rain. All this resulted in the devastating flood in the Alakananda in July 1970, which caused havoc in the upper catchment area.
It was here the Dasholi Gram Sarajya Mandal (DGSM), Gopeswar, which was engaged in social work in the Uttarakhand, stepped in the relief works during the 1970s flood. The volunteers of the Mandal realized that forest and land and forest and man were intricately linked. Then they started educating the people about the ill-effects of deforestation in the hill slopes and gradually they geared themselves into a movement. Then the “Chipko Movement” was started.
Initially, there were severe conflicts with the local Forest Department. In 1974, the Forest Department began marking trees for felling in the Perg Murnenda Jungle, 430 hectares were auctioned for Rs. 471,000. However, volunteers of the Chipko Movement were able to fight back for such a tree-felling plan. Then this movement attracted the attention of the Government, scientists, and experts of national and international bodies.
Though the movement initially started to educate the local people about afforestation, yet later it was possible to involve people in greater issues of ecology and environment protection. The Chipko Movement also took the lead in introducing smokeless chulah and gobar gas plants in the area. The men behind the organization of this kind of successful movement were Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sundarlal Bahuguna.
Now the movement organizers not only look after the environmental problem of the entire Garwal Himalayas but also liaison with other such movements in the country and outside.