Control over natural resources is an important reason for emergence of environmental movement in India. Some good examples of these kinds of movements are like Chipko and N.B.A. In the first case, the reason for conflict was control over forest; whereas, in the second the reason was control over water. Let’s have a look on the reasons behind the emergence of Chipko movement in the Garwhal Himalyas.
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The characteristic of the strategic and tactics aspects of the movement in Mobilization phase was an innovative technique of protest, illiterate peasants, men, women and children- threatened to hug forest trees rather than allow then to be logged for export. Notably the peasants were not interested in saving the trees per se, but in using their produce for agricultural and household requirements. In the Institutionalization phase however the movement turned its attention to broader ecological concerns, such as the collective protection and management of forest, and the diffusion of renewable energy technologies.
The Chipko movement was the forerunner of and in some cases the direct inspiration for a series of popular movements in defense of community rights to natural resources. Sometimes these struggles resolved around forest and in other instances, around the control and use of pasture, water, and mineral or fish resources. Most of these conflicts have pitted rich against poor: Logging companies against hill villagers, dam builders against forest tribal communities, multinational corporations deploying trawlers against traditional fisher folk in small boats. Here one party (e.g. loggers or trawlers) seek to setup the pace of resource exploitation to service an expanding commercial – industrial economy. A process which often involves the partial, or total dispossession of these communities who earlier had control over the resources in question, and whose own patterns of utilization were less destructive of the environment.
Common Property: In the case of Chipko movement, forest was considered common property by the local residents, and there were some well understood rules condition, these rules were traditional and implicit. When different corporation came to cut the trees , they were seen as an external agent by the people of Garhwal, hence they didn’t want any external element to use their common property.
One more important factor is that those poor peoples are solely dependent upon those natural resources for there survival hood. So, the changes in control of resources directly hamper their subsistence economy due to which their survival hood came in danger. Therefore, the protest of the people rise against those outsiders, which had ultimately taken the shape of environmental movement in many instances.
After independence in 1947 with the installation of new government under the leadership of Nehru, government emphasized on industrialization but the government policies were only for industrialization without looking the environment and equal sharing of natural resources.
The governmental policies resulted into a lot of displacement of people due to large projects such as dams like Bhakra – Nangal and many others. These policies pushed the local people on the edges more often than not, the agents of resource intensification are given preferential treatment by the states through the grant of generous long leases over mineral or fish stocks, e.g., or the provision of raw materials at an enormously subsidized prices, with the injustice so compounded local communities at the receiving end of this process have no recourse except direct actions, as a result in the mobilization phase they start resisting both the state and out side exploiters through a variety of protest techniques. If we talk in explicitly ecological terms then we can say that history of development in India can be interpreted as being, in essence, a process of resources capture by the omnivorous (individuals and groups with the social power to capture, transform and use natural resources from a much wider catchment area) at the expense of ecosystem people (those communities which depend very heavily on the natural resources of their own locality). So, we can say the environmental movement is the resistance offered by ecosystem people to the resource capture by omnivorous: as embodied in movements against large dams by tribal communities to be displaced by them or struggles by peasants against diversion of forests and grazing land to industry.
The other angles by which we look upon the cause of emergence of environmental movements are the socio-economic reasons. Almost most of the environmental movements in India are some how related with this aspect, also, if we see the location where these movements have started then we would found that most of these areas are tribal dominated. These people have strong beliefs regarding their forests, land and water. At the same time they are also totally dependent upon these resources for their survival hood. Therefore, when these forests or other sources of livelihood get disturbed by the outsiders, their socio-economic conditions get hampered and the ultimate recourse is the movement against those people who were harnessing those resources. Also, women had generally played an important role in these movements, in tribal groups; women are accustomed to responsibility and leadership for community survival. There work involves them directly and daily with forests and natural resources. So, whenever their survival came into risk, they take the lead role for the protection of their community and its resources.
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Environmental degradation is also an important cause which many time leads to environmental movement. One such e.g. was the silent valley case. Here the proposed dam by the Kerala State Electricity Board was supposed to submerge a large tract of virgin forest. Those are one of the few virgin rain forests left in the country. So, the local people of vicinity along with the N.G.O.s resisted this move.
One another example of movement which arose due to the degradation of local environment was the movement against the limestone quarrying, in the Doon Valley in the late 1970s and early 1980s.In this case the retired officials and executives of the locality formed the ‘friends of the Doon’ and the ‘Save Mussoorie’ committees to safeguard the habitat of the valley. They were joined by hotel owners in Mussoorie, who were worried about the impacts of environmental degradation on the tourist in-flow in this well known ‘ hill station.’ They used different techniques of resistance. Finally they put a Public Interest Litigation ( PIL ) that resulted in a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court, recommending the closure of all six limestone mines in the Doon Valley.
Environmental awareness and media
The spread of environmental awareness and media has also played pivotal role in emergence of environmental movement. People were previously unaware of the importance of the environment. As the environmental awareness increased due to various reasons people started protecting their environment. Some e.g. are the local movements to protect the purity of different rivers such as Ganga and Yamuna. The greening of many Indian cities also comes under this category. The Bhagidari movement of Delhi is a good example of this kind of environmental movement. Media has also played an important role in sustaining theses movements.
Now on the above arguments the conclusion could be drawn that the nature based conflicts, the false developmental policies of the government, the marginalization of the tribal and other underprivileged groups and the environmental degradation are the root causes of emergence of environmental movements in India. The lopsided, iniquitous, and environmentally destructive processes of development have propelled the people to go against the state in many cases and this leads to the emergence of environmental movements in the country. The risks on the survival hood of the marginal people due to the above mentioned factors had resulted in the emergence of these movements. Therefore the point comes that the environmental movements in different parts of the country grows out of the distribution conflict over the ecological resources needed for livelihood. A main aspect of the these movements is their integrative social effect on the regions where they are active. They cut across social and cultural cleavages that might have been expected to be divisive. They unite people who differ by sex, age, religion, ethnicity, caste, class, and region by stressing shared interests in saving the environment. Women have been prominent
as leaders and participants. The high status of women in the Himalayan area and among the tribal groups of the Narmada valley, including unusual freedom of action and movement that accompany their role in the subsistence economy, is partially responsible for their prominence in the environmental movement. So we can conclude that environmental movements in India are the resistances by the people for their livelihood and for their survival.
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