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World Environment Day: Revisiting the Chipko movement

Jun 05, 2012 01:20 PM IST India India

Shivpuri: The Chipko movement, 40 years ago, was India's first green movement and one of India's first green heroes was Chandi Prasad Bhatt. On World Environment Day, CNN-IBN on a special journey down the Ganga, met Chandi Prasad and found that a new green movement was now needed to save India's most sacred river.

In the 1970s, across Uttaranchal, rural women gave a cry to 'hug the trees' in protest against a government plan to chop the ancient trees.

"Chipko meant 'hug the trees'. When the government sent the woodcutters, we would hug the trees so the axe would fall first on our backs, and then the trees," Chandi Prasad said.

The founders of the Chipko movement were Gaura Devi, Sunderalal Bahuguna and Chandi Prasad Bhatt. They led marches, and protests, putting pressure on the government to impose a 15-year ban on the felling of trees in the hills. Chipko inspired people to take charge of their forests across India.

For Chandi, the message of Chipko is even more relevant today with over 300 dams slated to submerge almost 70 per cent of the river and large tracts of ancient forests.

Further downstream, another set of people take over the river. River rafting is popular on a stretch of the Ganga.