A historic environmental movement took place in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in India. It was started by Amrita Devi and lead by environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna. People involved in developmental projects ordered their workers to chop off the woods situated in Chamoli. The forest resources contributed greatly to the livelihood of the villagers. Their predominant occupation included, food gathering, forestry, farming, pastoral work, etc. Hence, these locals heavily relied upon the forest. The developmental officials intended to industrialize the area for improvement in transport and communication. But, the locals disagreed upon their plans. In the month of April 1973, contractors and workers visited the site to begin with felling of the woods. But, the locals gathered in masses and hugged the tress in protest. Women in large numbers too came forward to lead a non-violent struggle. Therefore, the movement came to be known as ‘The Chipko Movement’ (English Translation – ‘Hug The Tree Movement’) This unique movement gathered a lot of praise as the workers had to retreat due to the mass protest. The villagers thus gained success in eliminating deforestation.
A very similar protest occurred in the Aarey Forest in Mumbai city of India, which is an urban green space spread across 800 acres of land. This green landscape is popularly known as the ‘Green Lungs of Mumbai’. It is one of the only areas with a natural forest cover in Mumbai. A multi-crore metro rail project was launched in the city to ferry 13.9 lac passengers daily. Bharatiya Janata Party ( an Indian political party) announced a controversial decision to construct a car shed for Mumbai Metro line-3 at Aarey Forest. For this project, 2141 trees were cut down. Shivsena (political party) opposed the move of the BMC Tree Authority to allow felling of the trees, while other parties such as NCB and BJP were in favour. Mumbaikars were highly agitated with the decision taken. Protests regarding the same, legally gained pace when environmental activist, Zoru Bathena signed a petition at the Bombay High Court against the Tree Authority for giving clearance to the proposal.
The MD OF MMRCL claimed that the plus points of the developmental project will outweigh the felling of trees. Upon receiving all such actions and statements, not just politicians and environmentalists but also the Bollywood actors came on ground to protest against the decision. The ‘SAVE AAREY’ campaign gained popularity with social media hashtags, posters, slogans and blogs. People from NGO’s, celebs, youtubers, influencers and the civil public gathered in the Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon to lead agitations. As a part of duty, men and women in uniform had to detain, charge and arrest people for indulging in an unlawful assembly, under Section 144 which was imposed during that time period.
All of this gained favorable outcomes when, the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray announced the declaration of 800 acres of land in the Aarey as forest premises, which will remain unharmed pertaining to any developmental work in the future as well. The cases filed against the protesters were also taken back by the court. CM Thakeray also announced that the Metro car shed for Phase III be shifted to a land in Kanjurmarg (suburbs of Mumbai), owned by the State Government. The land will be used free of cost as a property of the State. In this manner, the green patch of Aarey was treasured by a cohesive movement. Hence, we can conclude by stating that, this Save Aarey Movement 2020 was much similar to the Chipko Movement 1973.
“The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”– Mahatma Gandhi
Sustainable use of natural resources and prevention of environmental degradation is essential. Mass consciousness in this regard is leading to environmental actions and movements. Thus, human evolution and environmental protection must go hand in hand.