Joyful colors in summer with refreshing fruits, contrasting bar against a snow-white winter sky, beautiful falling leaves like pearls in autumn and awe-inspiring blossoms displaying life in spring. Trees are a symbol of life and rebirth. They are an important part of nature and the ecosystem. From providing oxygen to preventing deforestation, trees play many important and unsung role in the world. Trees were the first living organisms to take birth on our planet but the reality of today is that the human race no longer is concerned about the trees that allow them to breathe. Even in such a time there are a few stories proving that all is not last and that we, humans, can become better care taker of our planet.
Silent Valley is an evergreen tropical forest in the Plakkad district of Kerala. The Kuntiphuza river is on of the major rivers in that region. The then Central Government decided to build a hydroelectricity plant in the Silent Valley region to power house that were mostly out of Kerala. The construction of the dam would mean that 8.3 sq km of the untouched moist evergreen forest would be submerged. The locals of that area clearly opposed the plan since it would cause a huge natural lose to the villages surrounding the silent valley region. The Silent Valley forest is also home to the largest population of lion-tailed macaque and this added to the damage that the hydroelectricity plant would cause. The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also passed a resolution asking the central government to scrap the plant. Even then, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi passed the project asking the state legislation to take the necessary precautions. But the locals were not to be subdued. They refused to leave their homes or give up their forest. This forced the government to setup a review committee for the project. The review committee in its decision advised the government to scrap the plan. In time the pressure from the locals as well as international recommendations, persuaded the government to scrap the Silent Valley Project and declare Silent Valley a bio-reserve.
2. Chipkoo Movement / Chipkoo Andolaan
One of the most famous environmental movement in India, the Chipkoo movement was a proof of the strong mindedness of the Indian population. Started in 1973, the Chipkoo movement took birth in Uttarakhand at the foothills of the Himalayas. The movement was against the rapid deforestation that was happening in the area. It was causing a great shortage of firewood, fodder and other natural ingredients that the villages sourced from the jungle. The most inspiring aspect of the movement was the fact that the movement’s backbone were the womenfolk of the village. They were the ones who were the most affected and thus, the became the mainstay of the movement. Led by Sunderlal Bahuguna, a Gandhian activist himself, the movement was anything but violent. There were no large protests on government propert neither was there are any breaking of public property. Rather one day, the womenfolk decided that they would just go and hug the trees of the forest when the woodmen with axe showed up. Even in the face of guns and men abusing them, the women stood vigil guarding their trees all night. Eventually the axemen gave up and left. That successful face-off caused a nation wide wave that eventually led to the government being cautious and imposing sanctions on reckless deforestation by private companies.
3. The Jungle Bachao Andolaan
The Singbham district of Bihar is renowned for its natural sal forests. The adivasis living in that area have has a life long symbiotic relation with the forests. There were earlier clashes of the adivasis with the officers of the forest department in a struggle by the adivasis to live and work in their forests. There were victories and losses for the adivasis but the struggle continued. The last straw was drawn when the government decided to replace the natural sal forests and instead plant highly priced teak in its place. The advasis felt that it was just a greed game and political pressure that caused the decision. The adivasis in a bid to protect their land launched into a wide protest that spread across the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. The protests shut down the governments plans and ended with the adivasis being successful in protecting their forests. The movement also highlighted the gap that exists in the minds of the Forest Departments and the tribal groups that inhabit a forest.
4. Navdanya Movement
One of the most prominent ecofeminist movement started in India, the Navdanya movement aims to reinvigorate pure agriculture producing Indian crops without artificial pesticides or anything. The brain child of environmental activist Vandana Shiva, the Navdanya movement looks to reinstate a farming system centred on engaging women and changing the current male dominated system. Founded in 1982, Navdanya promotes organic farming and protecting biodiversity. They believe in the ancient Sanskrit saying , “Vasudeva Kutumbakum” which means “Earth Family”, they freely breed almost 12 species of crop producing them in a condition free of artificial pesticides or fertilizers. With a lot of years of services to biodiversity, the name Navdanya means “Nine seeds” or “New Gift”. It ultimately symbolises that seed givers are indeed the best of humans. The gift of seed is a gift of life and providing nutrition. With this mentality, Navdanya has been doing ground-breaking work in the field of empowering woman and biodiversity. They have also strategically opposed globalisation plans that pose a danger to pure Indian crops as well as Indian farmers. They also hold regular campaigns and educational events about Earth Democracy, care for Earth, Biodiversity on Seed saving, Agroecology Regenerative Organic Agriculture, and healthy and living Food.
These stories tell us that trees and plants are crucial to human survival. In our race to globalisation and developing advanced technology we have lost sight of our roots. Our leaders do not concern themselves with the forests in our country and we as a public are not doing our job in gathering attention towards saving our forests. The world needs to wake up because time is running out. Today we are at a point in time where covering the entire planet with trees would not reverse the damage that we have caused. But by planting more trees and protecting the existing forests, we can make sure that no further damage is done to our planets. As the popular tribal saying by a Red Indian, “We do not own this planet but rather we are but caretakers of this planet”. Thus, as responsible caretakers we should focus on rejuvenating our trees and start protecting them before our reckless quest for advancement results in the eradication of the longest inhabitants of this planet, the Trees.