restricted access Chapter 10 Chipko Ecology: Shallow or Deep?
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Chapter 10 Chipko Ecology Shallow or Deep? It might be suggested that Bahuguna’s commitment to the protection of the Himalayas in all its aspects represents a shift from what has been called a shallow to a deep ecology. This suggestion is complicated by the fact that the term “deep ecology” is used in different ways. It also depends on the interpretation of the views and practices of Bahuguna and of those who opposed him.1 In any case, Bahuguna’s commitment to the protection of the Himalayas in all its aspects meant not only a conflict with the views of the forest industry and the government agencies that support it, but also conflicts with some of the other participants of the Chipko Movement. During his fast that began on January 9, 1979, the press was actively presenting their understanding of his demands, the response of the government, and the reaction of other chipko workers. As it was expressed in the Indian Express, his demands included the declaration of the Himalayan forests as protected forests; a ban on green felling; the formulation of a policy for mass plantation with priority for trees providing food, fuel, and fodder; the people’s participation in forestry operations; the immediate recall of the axe men and saw men from the sensitive catchment of the Alakananda River; and the utilization of already felled trees to meet local needs. N. P. Tripathi, secretary of the Uttar Pradesh State Forest Department, responded that “an irrational moratorium on felling would lead to sizable unemployment, dearth of timber in short supply, denial of raw materials to import-based forest industries like paper, matches, resins, etc, and consequent adverse effects on the economy, especially of the hill areas.”2 Nevertheless, the following day the government announced a complete and unconditional ban on all felling, and Sunderlal ended his fast. 137 138 Ecology is Permanent Economy I stated earlier that, according to Weber, Sunderlal ended the fast on February 2, 1979, with the announcement by the state government that no further forest auctions or felling would occur until such time as Bahuguna should meet to discuss the matter with the chief minister. That chief minister left office on February 28, 1979. In a footnote Weber points out that the moratorium remained in force until April 1980 when it was rescinded following press reaction and the criticism of the “development oriented Chipko supporters.”3 This press report raises the question of the identity of these “development oriented” chipko supporters. During the 1960s Sunderlal Bahuguna was active in organizing forest laborers into cooperatives that could enable the local people to achieve economic independence through forest work independent of outside contractors. Weber states that throughout 1977 chipko activists undertook activities either to spare trees in sensitive catchment areas or to stop the Forest Corporation from felling the trees until local industries had been established. “Gradually ,” he says, “Bahuguna moved away from this latter view; Chandi Prasad Bhatt and the workers of the DGSS did not.” Bhatt and his colleagues in the DGSS believed that local forest industries were necessary to address economic conditions in the hills. They cooperated with government programs of reforestation and welcomed their willingness to provide them with resin and other raw materials for their industries. They were also willing to allow felling in areas it did not consider critically sensitive. “By contrast, in mid-1977, Bahuguna and others gathered at Dharam Ghar, home of then seventy-seven-year-old Sarala Devi, and demanded an ending of the commercial exploitation of green trees in the Himalayan forests for at least ten years.”4 Bahuguna’s fast and the subsequent government ban on felling of all trees for any reason punctuated a rupture between these two active branches of the Chipko Movement. Following the announcement of an unconditional government ban on the felling of all trees, one of the papers announced: “Sunderlal Bahuguna breaks fast—and the people lose their rights.”5 Newspapers were efficient in reporting the criticism of a number of chipko leaders, including that of Chandi Prasad Bhatt. Bhatt stated his opposition to the abridgement of any of the peoples’ rights. The paper also quoted an anonymous sarvodaya worker to the effect that “no environmental policy can succeed if it ignores the people in that environment , who are as much a part of it as the trees, rivers and mountains.”6 This statement by Bhatt and the anonymous sarvodaya worker could have come as easily from Bahuguna himself. As...