The Chipko movement emerged in the early 1970s in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas. In attempting to draw attention to the difficulty of sustaining their livelihoods in the region, local communities engaged in protest by hugging trees marked for felling in state-owned commercial forests. As this account spread across the country and elsewhere, Chipko was transformed into a shining symbol of grassroots activism. Ironically, as the story was embraced world-wide by ecologists, eco-feminists, policy makers and academics so it became increasingly disconnected from the realities that gave rise to the original protests. This book brings the Chipko movement back from the realm of myth into the world of geographical history. It traces the modes of administration and policy intervention in the region through the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phases, and reveals how its biogeography has been shaped by varying struggles over resources, livelihoods and autonomy. Chipko, when seen in the context of its geographical history, shows that the question of sustainability in Garhwal, or in any other 'backward' or 'pristine' realm of the world, hinges more on an understanding of substantive democratic processes than on the need to make heroes or villains of those who participate in activist movements. The book is extremely relevant for ecologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and those involved in the environmental policy formulation.
About the Author:
HARIPRIYA RANGAN is at the School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University in Victoria, Australia.