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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 153-154

Interview with environmentalist: Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna

1 MPH Student, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Community and Family Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
3 Dean (Academics), All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Date of Submission18-Sep-2020
Date of Decision19-Sep-2020
Date of Acceptance26-Sep-2020
Date of Web Publication15-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Manoj Gupta
All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_163_20

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How to cite this article:
Jha N, Bhadoria AS, Gupta M. Interview with environmentalist: Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna. J Med Evid 2020;1:153-4

How to cite this URL:
Jha N, Bhadoria AS, Gupta M. Interview with environmentalist: Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna. J Med Evid [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Jun 3];1:153-4. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2020/1/2/153/303558

Everyone says that world is coming to an end. We see dirt and pollution everywhere, but we do not wish to do anything about it. We believe that environmentalists are earth warriors. They are fighting for a cause! But what is the cause? The Environment! Our environmentalists are the people who are fighting to save the planet and its resources. There is one Indian who has left no stone unturned to save our environment, Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna. He is a famous Garhwali environmentalist, Chipko Movement leader and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and Satyagraha.

In an interview with the Editorial team [Figure 1], he discussed his life's journey, present environmental threats and different ways to deal with it. The Editorial team requested him to share some details about himself and his childhood. He was born on 9 January 1927 in village Maroda near Tehri, Uttarakhand. He did his initial schooling from Tehri and then went to Lahore for his graduation. His wife, Smt Vimla Ji, added that they were born as slaves to the Britishers, and attaining education for Indians was not easy and they had to cover long distances to get even very basic education. He started social work at the age of 13. In his early life, he fought against untouchability and later started anti-liquor drives from 1965 to 1970 with support from women in the hills. At a very tender age, he participated in a nationalist movement and was jailed for 6 months for his contribution in freedom fight. He adopted the principles of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi Ji, in his life and committed to live amongst rural people and establish an ashram in the village. After listening to his struggles of early life, the team was eager to know what inspired him to be an environmentalist, on which he took a pause and said 'hills are a storehouse of resources but people in the hills are still poor. Protecting these resources will definitely improve the life of people living in the hills'. He also told the team that the Britishers exploited the natural resources of the nation. They planted trees that were harmful for the soil, adversely affected underground water levels and decreased the fertility of the soil.
Figure 1: Authors with Sunderlal and Vimla Bahuguna

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Further, Sunderlal ji was asked about the Chipko Movement and what made him think of such an innovative idea to protect trees. In response, Sunderlal Ji smiled and started with a quote saying Kya hai jungle ke upkar; Mitti, paani or vayvhar, Mitti, paani or vayvhar hai jeene ke aadhar, which means that forests bless us with pure soil, water and air, which are essential for life. He said that the Chipko Movement was an initiative taken by women in the hills and a common slogan that was used by them was Laathi goli khaenge apne ped bachaenge (meaning: we will even face bullets to save our trees). To this, Smt Vimla Ji added that gradually people from the nearby villages started joining the movement and made sure that the trees were hugged and protected by people all the time to prevent cutting, and she was also arrested by the British government for her involvement in the Chipko Movement. Sunderlal ji was also asked about other factors that he thought are adversely affecting the environment. To this, Vimla Ji said 'Industrialisation and development have adversely affected the environment. Earlier, people used to have a connection with the environment, which is disappearing nowadays. People need to understand the importance of the balance between environment and human development for healthy existence of all species. The government failed to provide proper employment to the locals, which pushed them to migrate. Migration of families is not good for national security as villagers in the hills keep a constant watch on all movements at the borders'.

Sunderlal Ji was also a part of the anti-Tehri dam protests. We asked him why he feels that dams are not good for environment, to which he replied that Himalayas are fragile and he was afraid that the dam would cause scouring of hills, which would lead to landslides. With great concern, he further added that if the dam ever collapses, Rishikesh would be under water in just one hour and in the next few minutes, Haridwar would also be drowned. He believes that building a dam in such fragile hills is dangerous. The team also asked him about the role of local people in saving forests. He said, 'common people must be awakened and made aware about nature. Water must be protected, rainwater harvesting should be done. Our villages should have basic facilities so that people are not forced to flee their villages to the plains for employment. As migration not only causes threat to Himalayan nature but also affects national security'. For the new generation, he suggested three mantras, 'first, don't follow wrong practices and wrong lifestyles since you will live longer than us. Secondly, you can see father than us just like how a child sitting on the shoulder can see father than us. And thirdly we are too selfish, we should become selfless'. He said, 'Today, the Himalayas are calling you. Wake up my son, do not allow my auction. Protect me from being slaughtered'. Further, he said, 'A lot of work still has to be done. Both the government and citizens have to work together to build a rock-solid foundation'. We requested Sunderlal Ji to guide young doctors, to which he said 'Doctors should work for in sanity and understand the importance of environment, which is important for everybody's healthy growth' [Video 1]


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