Saturday, March 01, 2014

Gandhi Peace Prize for Chandi Prasad Bhatt

Chipko Pioneer. Ramachandra Guha has written off and on about him in his book The Unique Woods and articles like A Gandhian in Garhwal: Chandi Prasad Bhatt. From another essay from 2011 The Quiet Indian: A Man to Match His Mountains " Chandi Prasad Bhatt was, or is, more than the founder of Chipko. His contributions have been manifold. He both opposed deforestation and promoted afforestation, motivating women to revegetate hillsides made barren by the careless hand of man. He initiated producers’ co-operatives, generating off-farm employment for peasants excessively dependent on the monsoon. He inspired young men and women in Uttarakhand, and beyond, to devote themselves to a life of service. All through, he has displayed a complete indifference to fame or monetary reward. In contemporary India, few people exemplify the Gandhian ideal of disinterested service as nobly as Chandi Prasad Bhatt."
In another essay The rise and fall of Indian enviromentalism
"Since its origins, the environmental movement in India has passed through four stages. In the 1970s, it was seen as something of an interloper, disturbing the consensus—shared among politicians and intellectuals alike—that concern for nature was a luxury only rich countries could afford. The Marxist intellectuals went further; for them, ecology was a ‘bourgeois deviation from the class struggle’. Dismissed at first as CIA agents, men like Chandi Prasad Bhatt slowly brought their critics around to the view that there was indeed an ‘environmentalism of the poor’. Where in the West the green movement was motivated by the desire to keep beautiful places unpolluted to walk through, in India environmentalism was driven not by leisure but by survival. There was an unequal competition over resources such as forests, fish, water , and pasture. On one side were local communities who depended on these resources for subsistence; on the other, urban and industrial interests who appropriated them for profit. State policies had tended to favour the latter, leading to protests that called for a fairer and more sustainable use of the gifts of nature.......
Then, in about 1995, an anti-environmental backlash began. As the Indian economy began to take off, as a surge of new projects were floated or started, the greens found themselves cast as negative, backward looking, indeed, as the only obstacles to India’s march to greatness. Where it had once stifled private enterprise, the state now bent over backwards to accommodate it. Only the greens were willing to ask any questions at all—about where the land for the new projects would come from, for example, or what likely impact the projects would have on the state of the air and the water..........
It may be that the anti-environmental backlash has finally run its course. If not the facts on the ground, the growing global concern with climate change could bring the question of sustainable development back into centre-stage. If, or when, that happens, the Indian elite would be advised to look within, to seek solutions worked out at home and in keeping with Indian conditions. For there is far more to Indian environmentalism than dharnas and satyagrahas. "

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