1. Chipko Movement:
Spearheaded by the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal, a Gandhian organization, the Chipko Movement began as a protest movement in 1973 against the policy of the government of Uttar Pradesh to auction forests.
Chipko activists stand for people's rights in forests and have since gone on to organize women's groups for afforestation. Chipko essentially meaning - HUG the TREES - to prevent felling, remains the most favoured environmental movement in India. It was launched by Sunderlal Bahuguna and Chandi Prasad Bhat.
As a sequel to the above movement, several wild life sanctuaries have been carved out and poaching in these areas has been made a cognizable offense. Indeed, laws which prohibited killing endangered species of animals and birds were passed through mid-sixties.
The Gir lion, the Bengal tiger, the great Indian Bustard and a few other species benefited a great deal through such laws. For some species, they came too late; for example, the Indian Cheetah and the musk deer. But the questions raised by environmentalists are far more basic and it is in question so raised that the quintessence environmental movement lies.
Over several years this experience had inspired another movement called "Appiko" in Kamataka again to hug trees to prevent felling around the Western Ghats.
2. Save the Silent Valley Campaign:
This is the first major campaign against a dam in India, which started in the early 1980s. It successfully saved a genetically rich and one of the last remaining rainforests in Kerala from being submerged. The campaign was spearheaded by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad and supported by all specialists in India.
3. Save the Taj Campaign:
Environmentalists feared that pollution from the Mathura refinery, located 40 kms. Away, could damage the Taj Mahal. The heat they generated forced the authorities to take precautionary measures and monitor the monument from any sign of deterioration from air pollution.
4. Save the Soil Campaign:
Known as the Mitti Bachao Abhiyan, the movement was launched in 1977 against the waterlogging and salinity caused by the Tawa dam in Madhya Pradesh. The campaign mobilized local farmers to demand compensation for the lands affected.
5. Thai Vaishet Campaign:
The setting of the world's bigger urea plant just 21 km. from Bombay at Thai Vaishet evoked enormous opposition from city groups, notably the Bombay Environmental Action Group, which feared that the plant will increase Bombay's pollution and over congestion. Their concerted efforts delayed the project over two years but failed to change the site.
6. Bedthi Campaign:
This hydroelectric project located in Karnataka was the second in India - after Silent Valley - to be abandoned after environmental protests. The project would have submerged tracts of forests and prosperous areca nut, cardamom and pepper gardens. Local farmers and eminent scientists from Bangalore campaigned against the project.
7. Stop Bhopalpatnam - Inchampal Dams:
These two dams on the Indrāvati River in Maharashtra were stopped due to local protests from tribal led by the Jungle Bachao Manav Bachao Andolan - a coalition of activists, politicians and social workers.
8. Doon Mining:
Limestone mining in the Doon valley and Mussorie hills has left permanent scars on the famous hill, destroying forests and permanent water sources. The Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra in Dehra Dun filed a public interest case in the Supreme Court and the Court in a historic judgement ordered the closure of the mines on grounds of environmental destruction.
9. Karnataka's Degraded Forests:
The Karnataka government's decision to grant nearly 80,000 acres of degraded forest land and revenue land to a joint sector company, for afforestation was opposed by environmentalists. Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, a local voluntary agency has filed a petition in the Supreme Court contending that people's access to government forest land is crucial to their survival and so the governments decision to undertake afforestation through commercial interests, affects their fundamental right to life.
10. Kaiga Campaign:
Opposition to the nuclear power plant at Kaiga in Karnataka started in 1984. Inspite of the government's decision to go ahead with the project, local groups comprising farmers, betel nut growers, fisherfolk, journalists and writers wanted the project to fold up. The project continued with considerable improvements to ally the fears of local people.
11. Gandhamardhan Bauxite Mining:
The proposal to mine bauxite in the Gandhamardhan reserve forest in Orissa even though formally cleared by the government, has been stalled because of the intense agitation of the local tribals who do not want to see their forests destroyed.
12. Narmada Bachao Andolan:
This campaign against the massive river valley projects on the Narmada river, one in Madhya Pradesh and another in Gujarat, evinced enormous public interest. In a famous meeting in Harsud in Madhya Pradesh, several thousands of campaigners across the country, gathered to express their solidarity to the cause.
Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar Projects are designed to take water to Kutch to Gujarat. Four states are involved in the execution of this Project -
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan, Gujarat being the major beneficiary. The mandatory report on the environmental status dealt with eight relevant issues: catchment area, treatment, compensatory afforestation, and command area development, rehabilitation, flora/fauna, and archeology, seismicity and health aspects.
This report pointed out that while the environmental and rehabilitation aspects should be implemented simultaneously with the main construction work, the construction work progressed faster by four years while all others are far behind schedule. The worst was resettlement of the outsees. It is against this background that Ms. Medha Patkar has launched a historic agitation. Meanwhile the dam height was sought to be raised. Every trick conceived was faced squarely until World Bank revised its stand and the government of Madhya Pradesh softened its stand. The Andolan continues.
13. Save the Western Ghats March:
This padyatra, jointly organized by a number of environmental groups in 1988, covered over 1,300 km. across the States of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The March focused attention on the environmental problems of the Western Ghats.
14. Tehri Dam Campaign:
The construction of Tehri dam in seismic Himalayas has been challenged by many environmental groups. Protests by the Tehri Bandh Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, a local organization, have continued for over 20 years.
Setting of industries and power plants has increasingly become a cause of protest because of fears of possible pollution and destruction of the surrounding environment.
In recent years, there have also been protests against nuclear power plants at Narora, Kakrapur, Kaiga, Koodankulam and Nagarjunasagar and against their possible setting in Kerala.
15. Rayon Factory Pollution:
The case of "Mayur" in Kerala illustrates what law can do. The Birlas built a Rayon factory there taking advantage of abundant availability of bamboo in that area. Soon the local population began to enjoy a better level of prosperity than before. The factory let out the effluents into the nearby river. The water consequently became non potable. An agitation forced it to close up. The township went back to its earlier poverty. A new agitation to get the factory reopened succeeded ensuring steps to prevent air and water pollution.
16. Chilka Bachao Andolan:
Chilka, Asia's largest brackish water lake lies on Bay of Bengal in Orissa State and is 60 km. long and 30 km, broad at farthest points with an area of 1,200 sq. km. during monsoon. Winter brings millions of migratory birds from the far corners of the world. Therefore, open part of the lake, along with Nalaban Island, has been turned into a sanctuary. The lake's mouth into sea is rich in dolphins. With all this, Chilka has been a major attraction for tourists and nature lovers for a long time. But over the last few decades things turned murky converting it into an area of conflicts and violence.
It all started by the Tata Project with Orissa Government - a large shrimp culture complex in lake with a Rs. 30 crore turnovers. In response a former Orissa Revenue Minister Banka Behari Das launched the Chilka Bachao Andolan. The Andolan contended that the project (a) would block local fisherman's access to the lake (b) take away a vast grazing ground of the local cattle (c) pollute the lake with organic nutrients and fermented feed at regular intervals - killing the marine life and drive the fish catch already failing due to salutation and declining salinity, and (d) drive away the migratory birds because of the large number of diesel pumps of high horse power to be used for maintaining the flow of water.
India is a signatory to the Ramsar International Treaty on wetland preservation where Chilka was identified as one of the world's most important water bodies on account of its unique ecosystem. Therefore, in October 1992 central government decided not to grant environmental clearance to the Tata Project. And in November 1993, came a judgement from Division Bench of the Orissa High Court in defense of Chilka Lake Ecosystem.
Meanwhile, economic pressures made many non-fishermen turn to the lake for survival. The Chilka Bachao Andolan, took up the cause of the fishermen with renewed vigour involving local villagers on a large scale. This movement was supported by environmental specialists by and large. Yet commerce and profit proved stronger than ecology and welfare.
The outsiders have used local non-fishermen to encroach upon the lake and the barriers used by prawn farms near the lake connection with sea reduced the local catches leading to popular agitations and police firing. The current demand is to ban the prawn farming in toto in Chilka and the andolan continues.
17. Centre for Science and Environment:
This Centre has been doing immense service to the cause of environment for the last two decades under the leadership of Anil Agarwal. Though they have not directly organized any environmental resistance movements, they have championed their causes, provided information supports background materials, advised for policy agencies, lobbying the paradigm shifts and attitudinal changes from Presidents and Prime Ministers to commoners with exemplary positive efforts. Without CSE and its periodical Down to Earth reports many movements in India would not have been known to the concerned citizenry.
18. Chhattisgarh Movement of Sankar Guha Neogi:
Sankar Guha Neogi organized tribals of Chhattisgarh against exploitation of every kind the most prominent being against the profiteering from forest produce. While he mixed environment with trade unionism and representative politics, his thrust has always been ecological security for the local people and tribals. No wonder he has been killed, unable to bear his successes, by the oppressive elements.
19. Water-shed Movements in Maharashtra, Palamau and Sukhmojori:
These are comparatively smaller movements not aimed against any oppression. These are concerned about sharing the most sacred of resources, water, among all the needy. The Paani Panchayats in some parts of Maharashtra were successful. The experiment at Sukhmojori on the regeneration of a whole village based on water use has been repeated at Palamau and is considered a Role Model, shortcomings not withstanding.
20. Auroville Movement:
Auroville is a small settlement of concerned individuals of many nationalities bound by the philosophy of Aurobindo and ecological conservation and security. This has been functioning for the last 30 years. Just by example they have been able to resurrect both concerns as well as efforts for better environment.
Restoration of degenerated soil, harvesting solar and wind energies, recycling wastes for better agro productivity, alternatives to chemical pesticides, social forestry, organic farming, tank regeneration, watershed management, ecologically sound housing are some among their activities. In fact this Auroville movement can be mother of a myriad person' movements in the rest of India.
21. Bishnoi Tradition:
The Chipko movement derived inspiration from the tradition of Bishnois in Rajasthan to protect the trees and the wild life associated with them for which their women folk laid their lives long ago. Even recently the media reported how some film starts of Bombay were hauled up by for violating this sanctity under Bishnois' initiative. This tradition is by far the most sustained environmental movement in India.