Important Environmental Movements


Population growth and industrialisation are putting tremendous pressure on natural resources. Many grass-root and corporate organisations have initiated people into adopting an eco-friendly and green approach to life by creating environmental movements. We bring you an insight into four such movements



Incepted in 1985, the Narmada Bachao Andolan is one of the most powerful mass movements against the Indian government. The movement opposes the construction of a huge dam on the Narmada River. This movement is led by prominent social activist Medha Patkar.

The Narmada is India's largest west-flowing river and supports a vast population. It is believed that the proposed Sardar Sarovar Dam and Narmada Sagar will displace more than 2,50,000 people. This displacement is the root cause of disagreement between the government and the people. The government has proposed the resettlement or rehabilitation of displaced people but the new space offered to the villagers is not farm-friendly. Ironically, most of the displaced villagers are farmers.

The project includes the construction of 3,000 big and small dams along the river. Once these dams are ready, they will produce 1,450MW of electricity and will generate pure drinking water for more than 40 million people living in the villages and towns close by.

Supporters of the Narmada Bachao Andolan believe that this hydroelectric project will devastate biodiversity by destroying thousands of acres of forest and agricultural land. They also believe that water and energy can be provided to the people through alternative technologies that are ecologically beneficial.



Rachel Carson was a writer, scientist and ecologist who grew up in Springdale, Pennsylvania, USA. Her mother instilled in her a love for nature and the living world, which Rachel expressed first as a writer and later as a student of marine biology.

In 1952, she published an award-winning paper on the study of the ocean called 'The Sea Around Us' and followed it up with her second paper, 'The Edge of the Sea' in 1955. In the late 1950s, Rachel turned her attention to environmental problems caused due to the extensive use of synthetic pesticides. In 1959, she wrote a letter to The Washington Post, a newspaper, about the decline in bird populations. In her words, the "silencing of birds" was due to the overuse of pesticides.

All these findings were recorded in her book, 'Silent Spring', which she published in 1962. This book brought about a reversal in the national pesticide policy in America and led to the ban of synthetic pesticides like dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and others. The book also inspired and led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is an agency of the federal government of the United States that works towards protecting human health and the environment.

In her book, Rachel also challenged practices of agricultural scientists and the government and called for a change in the way humans viewed the natural world.



Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that works towards changing attitudes and behaviours of people in order to protect and conserve the environment and promote peace.

Greenpeace was incepted in 1971 by a small team of activists from Vancouver, Canada. Today, it has offices in over 42 countries with a head office in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Greenpeace focuses on environmental issues such as ocean and forest protection, global warming, phasing out of fossil fuel, effects of nuclear power, elimination of toxic chemicals and the promotion of renewable energies to stop climate change. Greenpeace also campaigns for whales, protection of the marine environment and other such projects.

Greenpeace is known for its direct action and is described as one of the most visible environmental organisations in the world. It is one of the few organisations that has got governments internationally to change decisions.



The Chipko Movement started in the 1970s. It was a non-violent movement aimed at protecting and conserving trees and preventing forests from being destroyed. The name Chipko originated from the word 'embrace'. Villagers used to hug the trees in order to protect them from being cut down by woodcutters. The Chipko Movement was based on the Gandhian philosophy of peaceful resistance to achieve goals.

The movement started in 1973 in the Chamoli district, in presentday Uttarakhand, and from there it spread to other parts of the country. The Chipko protests in Uttar Pradesh achieved a major victory in 1980 when a 15-year ban was placed on the felling of trees in the Himalayan forests by the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Since then the movement has spread to Himachal Pradesh in the North, Karnataka in the South, Rajasthan in the West, Bihar in the East and the Vindhyas in Central India.

The Chipko Movement is the result of local leadership shown by hundreds of leaders and activists, primarily village women, acting to save their means of survival and their communities.

The most prominent Chipko leader is Sunderlal Bahuguna, a Gandhian activist and philosopher, who made the appeal to Indira Gandhi. Sunderlal coined the Chipko slogan, "Ecology is permanent economy." Chandi Prasad Bhatt is one of the earliest Chipko activists. He started local industries based on the sustainable use of forest wealth.