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Sunderlal Bahuguna – The Earth Warrior who Dedicated his Life to Save the Environment


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Sunderlal Bahuguna

Quick Facts

  • Name: Sunderlal Bahuguna
  • Famous As: Environmentalist
  • Nationality: Indian
  • Birth Date: 9 January 1927 (Tehri, Uttarakhand)
  • Married To: Vimla Bahuguna
  • Awards: Jamnalal Bajaj Award (1986), Right Livelihood Award (1987), Padma Vibhushan (2009) 


Everyone says that the world is coming to an end. We see dirt and pollution everywhere but we do not wish to do anything about it.

According to us, environmentalists are earth warriors. They are fighting for a cause! What is the cause? They are the people, who are fighting to save the environment.

When we talk about environmentalists, Sunderlal Bahuguna comes to our mind.

He is an environmentalist, who has been part of the great movements to save nature and its gifts.

The Garhwali environmentalist is best-known as the Chipko Movement leader.

He is an ardent follower of Gandhi’s principles. He dedicated his life towards one goal which is to save the environment and take the necessary steps to improve the condition.

How about taking a quick look at his journey? Read on to find out more about Sunderlal Bahuguna.

Chipko Movement leader Sunderlal Bahuguna with his wife Vimla Bahuguna

Early Life

Sunderlal Bahuguna was born in Tehri, Uttarakhand in the year 1927 on 9th January. He married Vimla on one condition. He demanded that they would live in a rural setting and start an ashram there.

Since he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he walked in hills and forests. Bahuguna covered 4,700 kilometres by foot.

Bahuguna was just 14 years old when he started to participate in social activities. Shri Dev Suman was his guide, who was also a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s non violence principle.

Did you know that he started the anti-liquor drive? He also fought against untouchability like Mahatma Gandhi.

Environment Sunderlal Bahuguna with Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Battle to Save the Environment

You may have heard about Chipko Movement. It was in history books and even taught in political science classes.

In today’s world, there are very few people, who come forward and take necessary steps to save the environment. Sunderlal Bahuguna was one of the rare gems!

Chipko Movement started in the year 1973 and the cause was to save the forests and trees.

What did people do? People started to stick to trees and hugged them. When the officials came to cut the trees in the forest, the people hugged the trees so that nobody could destroy the forests.

Sunderlal Bahuguna helped to make the movement relevant through his 5,000 kilometre march. His creation of the logo, ‘Ecology is Permanent Economy’ became very popular.

Bahuguna was also against the Tehri Dam project. He has been against it for many years. He did not use any violence to save the environment.

Since Bahuguna was a follower of Gandhi’s principles, he used Satyagraha tactics. He went on a hunger strike at Bhagirathi.

He has always thought about the hill people and their welfare. By building projects on rivers, it would take away the livelihood of people. Bahuguna was strictly against the idea of displacement caused by destructive activities.

Sunderlal Bahuguna receiving Padma Vibhushan Award from the 12th President of India, Pratibha Patil in 2009

Awards and Literary Works

Sunderlal Bahuguna has written the following books –

  • Dharti Ki Pukar

  • Ecology Is Permanent Economy

  • Bhoo Prayog Mei Buniyadi Parivartan Ki Or

  • India’s Environment – Myth and Reality

He has received the following awards –

  • Jamnalal Bajaj Award (1986)

  • Right Livelihood Award (1987)

  • Padma Vibhushan (2009)

  • He refused to take the Nobel Peace Prize and Padma Shri award.

Famous Quotes by the Environmentalist, Sunderlal Bahuguna

“Ecology is permanent economy.

Who stood up for the trees? We stand up for our rights but the trees have no voice. If they had a voice, they would be screaming because each day, the officials destroy a forest which includes thousands of trees.

Bahuguna was one of the few people, who stood up for the trees. Destroying the environment means taking away the natural resources from people.

The air we breathe will not be as clean if the officials cut all the trees. Just like people keep their treasures in a safe, they should protect the environment that they live in.

“Today Himalaya is calling you. Wake up my son, do not allow my auction. Protect me from being slaughtered.”

Sunderlal Bahuguna has always fought for the right of hill people. He became their voice! He always endorsed that one should protect the environment and not to cut the tree. It gives us the air that we breathe. It bears fruits and vegetables that we eat.

Why should we auction our environment? Why are we letting our trees and plants getting cut?

If trees had a voice, they would tell you not to slaughter them because a green environment will benefit the people and the animals.

“We in Himalaya are facing a crisis of survival due to the suicidal activities being carried out in the name of development.”

When officials build projects on rivers, it is a suicidal activity. In the name of development, people are losing their homes and not getting enough food and clean water.

Ganga is a river which is worshipped by the Hindus. If it is a holy river then people should not put the ashes or bathe in the holy river.

Sunderlal Bahuguna says that he does not want to see the death of the most sacred river, Ganga.

In a nutshell, Sunderlal Bahuguna has lived a quality life. He is still fighting for the environment and continues to be a popular public figure.

We are glad that there are earth warrior like him, who believes in actions and not just mere words. His name has gone down history!


Written By: Anshu Choudhary



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