The world famous environmentalist and receipient of several national and international coveted awards and recognitions for his exemplary contribution in the field of environment protection and creating global awareness through his and Gaura Devi’s Chipko movement ensuring end to the arbitrary practice of the mass and indiscrimate felling of trees by the forest mafia in the cohesive green jungles of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in 1973 and thereafter, Dr. Sunder Lal Bahuguna turns 92 having taken birth in a tiny village of Garhwal Uttarakhand on 8th January 1927.
A Gandhian by thought, philosophy and actions, Sunder Lal Bahuguna’s protracted career of 70 long years as a freedom fighter, the Congressman, a renowned social activist , a relentless fighter for socio cultural and environmental causes and as a vivacious reader and a prolific writer on environmental and ecological issues starts from his age of just 13 years when he was an adoloscent and actively participated in freedom movement and also against the tyrannical rule of the then Tehri Kingdom having been jailed number of times under the leadership of the then freedom fighter, a social reformer and leader of the masses Sridev Suman.
Recipient of several prestigious awards to name a few – Padma Vibhushan, Padma Shree, Megsaysay and Right lively hood award including scores of other honours Sunder Lal Bahuguna refused the Noble Peace Prize on environment in view of and as a mark of protest against the incessant degradation of global ecology and increasing green house emmisions . Immensely supported and assisted by his better half and herself a Sarvodayi woman leader Vimla Devi having worked with Gandhiji for several years , the latter, while marrying to Sunder Lal Bahuguna has put a condition that if Bahuguna would agree to live in the villages and work for the environmental protection and help the rural people, then only will she tie a knot with him. And Sunderlalji readily agreed.
They both served the masses while living in villages and formed an Ashram providing free lodging, boarding and education to the local youths for decades known as Thakker Baba Ashram. Having visited almost the entire world in world environment conferences on the invitation of various green organisations, and governments, Sunder Lal Bahuguna made a special mark by his eloquent speeches by educating the people of the world on discouraging indiscrimate felling of trees, encouraging more and more plantations and emphasising the dire need for cohesive and dense forests with clean flawless rivers considered to be the lungs and the major life line of the societies.
Bahuguna made history when he first undertook 47 days hunger strike at the site of the Tehri Dam stopping its work and lateron 74 days hungerstrike at Rajghat under the tenures of Prime ministers Narsimha Rao and HD Devegowda. An ardent proponent of small and run of the riven dams, author of several books and hundreds of articles and papers on environment, Sunder Lal Bahuguna is a globally popular and widely recognised environmentalist who made the entire world aware and mobilised by his internationaly known CHIPKO MOVEMENT alongwith Gaura Devi, the founder and her co villagers ( all women) against the rampant and indiscrimate felling of trees not only in the Uttarakhand hills but also in various countries of the world. I was also fortunate to interview him in detail at his Dehradun house twice and also present my book Havoc in Heaven to him. He too presented his one of the books with his affectionate hand written remarks.
SUNIL NEGI, PRESIDENT, UTTARAKHAND JOURNALISTS FORUM