Environmental activist Sunderlal Bahuguna who was also an eminent part of the Chipko Movement against the pacing deforestation in the 1970s, passed away in Uttarakhand this afternoon due to COVID-19.

Well-known environmentalist and Chipko movement frontiersman Sunderlal Bahuguna died at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Rishikesh on 21st May after suffering from the infection for several days. He was 94 years old. AIIMS Rishikesh Director Ravi Kant said that Mr. Bahuguna died at 12.05 pm.

One of India’s eminent environmentalists, Mr. Bahuguna was admitted to the hospital on 8th May when he tested positive for Coronavirus. His condition turned critical yesterday night, with his oxygen level dropping tragically. He was on CPAP therapy in the hospital’s ICU.

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Mr. Bahuguna spent his life pleading and educating the villagers to protest against the destruction of the forests and Himalayan Mountains caused by big companies and Englishmen in the old and modern times too. It was his efforts and good-teachings that saw Prime Minister at that time Indira Gandhi banning the cutting of tress.

Bahuguna is remembered and is well-known for the slogan he gave, that read- “ecology is the permanent economy”. As a long-time follower of Gandhian beliefs and principles, Mr. Bahuguna transformed the temporary Chipko Movement into a turning point in India’s forest conservation efforts and laws.

Chipko basically means “to hug”. During the 1970s, when endless and sudden cutting of trees began affecting people’s life and their routine, villagers in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli began to stand up against the act. The most controversial point came when the government, in January 1974, announced the auction of 2,500 trees, almost ignoring the Alakananda River.

The Chipko movement was a non-violent act in 1973 that was aimed at protection and conservation of trees and forests, but, it is best remembered for the unity and power of women for the cause of preserving forests, which also brought about a change in attitude regarding their current status in society.

Mr. Bahuguna, then observing all the actions and after-effects of the situation, gave a boosted direction to the movement and his appeal to the Prime Minister back then, Indira Gandhi, resulted in a 15-year ban on chopping of green trees and ban on deforestation in 1980.

Later on, Mr. Bahuguna used Gandhian methods like Satyagraha and hunger strikes to protest the building of the Tehri dam in Uttarakhand above Bhagirathi River.

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Paying his hearty tribute, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Passing away of Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna Ji is a monumental loss for our nation. He manifested our centuries-old ethos of living in harmony with nature. His simplicity and spirit of compassion will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with his family and many admirers. Om Shanti.”