Renowned Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna: At the age of just 13, Sunderlal Bahuguna had such a passion to do something different, saying that Amar Shaheed came in contact with Shreve Suman. Thereafter, he led several other movements against rebellion against Tehri Riyasat, including liquor ban, Chipko movement, anti-Tehri dam movement, and did unmatched work for environmental protection.
The early life of renowned environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna
Renowned environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna was born on 9 January 1927 in “Marora village” near Tehri. His father Ambadatta Bahuguna was a forest officer in the Tehri State. He was just 13 years old when he came in contact with Sridevi Suman in Tehri. At that time, Sridevi Suman was plying against the princely state of Tehri. Seeing Bahuguna’s talent, he gave him some books to read.
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Then, in Sunderlal Bahuguna’s teenage mind, there was a revolution in the mind and revolution to do something different. In the year 1944, the words of Sridevi Suman, lodged in Tehri Jail, were brought to the public by Sundalal Bahuguna at that time. With this, they too came under the target of Tehri Riyasat and were taken into custody.
After this Sundarlal Bahuguna went to Lahore for studies. During this time, he also remained disguised for some time to avoid the police of Tehri’s princely state. In June 1947, he returned to Tehri from Lahore with first-class BA honors, then became active in the Praja Mandal against the Tehri Riyasat. Meanwhile, on 14 January 1948, the Tehri monarchy was overthrown and if the government of Prajamandal was formed, then Sunderlal Bahuguna should be given the responsibility of the propaganda minister. Then he also remained in Congress for some time.
In the year 1955, Gandhiji got in touch with Vimala Nautiyal, studying in the Kausani Ashram of English disciple Sarla Bahn. Vimala conditioned him to leave politics to marry and settle in a remote backward village. Sunderlal Bahuguna accepted the condition and walked 22 miles away from Tehri and put a hut in Silyar village. On 19 June 1956, he married Vimala Nautiyal and formed the “PARVATIYA NAV JEEVAN MANDAL”.
Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna gave the slogan ‘Dhar anch daal, bijli banava khala-khala’ (‘धार ऐंच डाला, बिजली बणावा खाला-खाला) This meant that more and more trees should be planted in high altitude areas and electricity should be fulfilled by setting up small projects in low-lying areas of the state.
Uttarakhand’s renowned environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna
Between 1960 and 1970, Sunderlal Bahuguna Ji started the liquor ban movement and the government had to close liquor shops in the mountains. In 1974, Bahuguna became part of the famous ‘Chipko’ movement and saved green trees from being cut down. In 1981, the Central Government announced the award of Padma Shri to him, but he did not take the award and asked the Center to ban the cutting of trees in high altitude areas in the mountains. After this, the central government obeyed him and banned tree cutting in high altitude areas.
Then Sundarlal Bahuguna Ji accepted the Padma Shri. In 1986, Sundalal Bahuguna Ji became active in the movement against the construction of the Tehri Dam and on 24 November 1989 left Apna’s “Silyara Ashram” and started a house near the dam site on the banks of the Bhagirathi in Tehri. He also went to jail several times during Andelan’s time. But, due to the impact of their movement, the government had to form several committees for environmental impact during dam construction.
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Tehri Dam and Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna
Renowned environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna agitated against the construction of the Tehri dam and forced the central government to bow down. Due to the resistance of Sunderlal Bahuguna, the Central Government had to form committees in many matters related to dam construction and displacement.
Sunderlal Bahuguna started the Tehri Dam protest movement in 1986 after the last phase of the “Chipko Movement”. He left his village and moved to Tehri in 1989 after the government did not pay attention to this and started living as a hut on the banks of river Bhagirathi. Even after this, when the government remained unmoved by Ramoshi, in 1995, he fasted for 45 days in protest against the Tehri dam. After this, the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao listened to Bahuguna and assured him to end his fast. In addition, the Center also constituted a committee to study the impact on ecology from Tehri bung.
Sunderlal Bahuguna did not sit silently with this only. Again he took 74 days to protest against the non-maintenance of environmental interests in the dam. Fasted. During this time, due to their movement, the work of Tehri Dam was also stopped for some time, which was able to be resumed in the year 2000. Due to their opposition, the impact of the Tehri dam on the environment was seriously thought about and initiatives were taken towards its disposal.
SDM stopped the construction of the Tehri dam
In the year 1989, environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna fasted for 11 days. Then the construction work of Tehri Dam was stopped by the then SDM Kaushal Chandra. Historian Mahipal Singh Negi says that the dam work was disrupted across the country. Seeing the impact of Sunderlal Bahuguna’s movement, the SDM had stopped the dam work citing law and order deterioration. After this, the Secretary and all the senior officials of the Central Government had reached Tehri. Somehow the construction of the dam was started again. Sunderlal Bahuguna also staged a sit-in in 1996, after which the dam was closed in April-May.
Sunderlal Bahuguna joins the Chipko movement
Sunderlal Bahuguna gave international recognition to the Chipko movement. The talk is on 26 March 1973. Then the women of the contractor, who arrived in the forest of frontier Rani village of Chamoli district, to cut down the trees, were forced by the women. The rural women clung to the trees and made it clear that the forest is our home. They will not allow it to be cut under any circumstances. This campaign to save trees became famous as the Chipko movement, which was not only strengthened by the famous environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna Ji, but also made the country and the world aware of it.
Sunderlal Bahuguna, a well-known environmentalist who was very closely associated with nature, was associated with the Chipko movement in the year 1974. He made this campaign known to the common man not only with the new edge but also to save the forest by visiting not only the villages of the frontier region but also in various cities of all the states including Jath in Delhi of undivided Uttar Pradesh.
Chief of Forest Department of Uttarakhand Forest Department, Chief Conservator of Forests “Gajeev Bharatari”, says that in the year 1982 he was studying at Delhi University. Then the famous environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna came to DU (Delhi University) and gave a lecture on the Chipko movement in a program organized by the Kalpavriksha organization. Then the students got to know about the Chipko movement. “Gajeev Bharathari,” says that he along with other students left Bahuguna and went to the railway station. After this, he remained in constant contact with the famous environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna Ji.
Sunderlal Bahuguna honored with the award
- 1981: Padma Shri Award by Government of India
- 1986: Jamnalal Bajaj Award for constructive work.
- 1987: Right Livelihood Award (Chipko Movement)
- 1989: Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences (DSC) was conferred by IIT Roorkee.
- 2009: Padma Vibhushan Award by the government of India for environment conservation.
Sunderlal Bahuguna was an ardent defender of the Himalayan people, working for moderation, working for the plight of the hill people (especially working women). He fought not only for Uttarakhand but also for protecting the rivers of India. Sunderlal Bahuguna tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized on 8 May 2021, he died on 21 May 2021 at the age of 94.