TED Case Studies

Chipko Movement

           CASE NUMBER:         236  
           CASE MNEMONIC:       CHIPKO
           CASE NAME:           Chipko Indian Movement


1.  Issue

     Deforestation is a severe problem in northern India and
local people have banded together to prevent commerical timmber
harvesting.  These people have adopted a unique strategy in
recognizing trees as valuable, living beings.  The Chipko
movement adherents are known literally as "tree huggers."

2.   Description

     The meaning of Chipko, translated in Hindi, literally means
"tree-huggers."  No one actually knows when this movement began;
however, in the 1970's seemed to be the when the conflict was
heightened most.  The British government controlled the northern
hill districts of India in the nineteenth century.  During this
period (1815-1947), Uttarakhand was divided into two contiguous
but distinct sociopolitical units, the nominally independent
chifdom of Tehri Garhwal and the British administered Kumanun
Division.  Agriculture dominated both regions in that "eighty-
percent of the total population farmed largely with the help of
family labour."  Although caste distinctions has not been
stringent, the agrarian structure of Uttarakhand differs
significantly from the adjoining plains.  

     Historically, the Indian Himalayan region has been under the
control of expatriates (particularly Germans) since 1855 in order
to produce lumber for the railroads. The government nationalized
one-fifth of the forest area and enacted legislation," Indian
Forest Act of 1878, "regulating peasant access by restricting it
to areas of forest not deemed commercially profitable." 
Sanctions were enacted on those that breach those laws.  Although
most of the bureaucratic structures of the government maintained
that deforestation was specifically deemed for scientific and
legal purpose, they paid off forest managers to excavate entire
land areas to be used for commercial expenditures.  The proceeds
were usually put into the governmental treasury.     

     Although there is no one particular person that takes credit
for starting the movement, one name that seems to be synonymous
is Sunderial Bbahuguna, the leader.  The protestors, consisting
of mostly women and their children, were called on by their
leader to form a ban in order to stop the ursuption of trees from
the Uttarakhand.  The enduring nature of Chipko has raised
several questions.  The movement has been instrumental in the
social and ecological disintegration of the hill society and also
the ideological clashes between subcultures of the movement and
the redefinition of gender roles.

     Environmental awareness increased dramatically in the 1990s
in India -- and so did the number of organized lobbies to
champion the cause of a cleaner environment.  As a result, New
Delhi introduced legislation aimed at curbing pollution, but the
enforcement mechanism has been little.  Multilaternational
corporations were affected the most with high costs increasing. 
As early as August of 1994, Chipko huggers wanted to stop the
construction of the dam at Tehri because the protestors claim
that it will uproot trees and pose a flood threat.  Today, most
of the state legislators respect the peasant and their habitants. 
Nonetheless, to prevent future clearings, the Chipko "tree
huggers" are still very active.

     Agriculture to feed the indigenous families of the hills is
dependent on dense forest coverage.  The peasants of India's
hills depend on the forests for fuel, fodder, agricultural
implements, building timber, medicines and in times of dearth,
food.  "In the period before state intervention, not only did the
peasantry have full access to the forests, but their strong
communal institutions fostered the prudent utilization for forest
produce."  Subsistence agriculture provided women the necessary
nutrients needed to feed their families.  In most cases, the
surplus was used to sell their value added resources through the
market economy. Uttarakhand has moved away from subsistence-
oriented peasant economy to a dependent on outside remittances to

     According to Gross, India is caught in the vortex of the
market economy and faced with multiple environmental hazards,
hill society is today in a state of continuing economic
deterioration." The most affected by the deforestation are the
women of the villages.  They must travel long distances to get
firewood and fodder.  Because of the distances, they often leave
much of the wood behind. In addition, the wood is usually picked
over leaving the worse for the women that were not aggressive

     The debate is two-fold.  the state and means of survival
depend on the Himalayas for this commercially profitable
resources as well as its scientific richness.  Most
environmentalist in the Chipko Movement claim that this is a
scheme or euphemism for economic exploitation.  At a deeper
epistemic level, the language of scientific forestry worked to
justify the shift towards commercial working.  By similar act of
redefinition -- one that rested on a priori usurpation of legal
rights to ownership by the state -- the customary users of the
forest were designated its enemies.  Thus the management profile
of each forest division, the so-called working plans, while
indicating possible sources of injury to the forest crop included
men of the same category as natural hazards and wild animals. 
Recent research by Indian ecologist, ironically enough,
commissioned by the Forest Department, clearly demonstrated the
"yawning gulf between the ideology of sustained yield and the
actual operations of timber harvesting, wherein the output of
logged material often exceeds the increment to forest stock."

                     Commerical Viability

     Commercial timber operations were given a boost when
laboratory trials at the Forest Research Institute showed that
the utilization of chir waste (the material after the conversion
of logs to railway sleepers) for paper making was a viable
proposition.  Selling the waste and utilizing the considerable
areas of chir affected by twist, the Forest Department entered
into a contract with a large paper manufacturer, the Star Paper
Mills of Saharanpur.  From 1961 to 1981, under the terms of the
agreement, the mill buy waste timber and twisted chir trees at
highly subsidized prices.  Approximately 15 to 20 thousand tons
of pulpwood were supplied annually to the mill.  When further
research at the FRI established that ash and hornbeam could be
used for the manufacture of sports goods, the Symonds Company of
Allahabad was granted access to the unexploited broad-leaved

     During World War I, the extraction of chir sleepers was
high.  400,000 sleepers were exported from Kumaun during 1916-18.
Even more were extracted during World War II.  In 1940-41,
440,000 sleepers were supplied to the railways, mostly of chir
pine.  The government, in a need to tightened controls, gave the
Forest Department control over the panchayats (forests that are
controlled by the villagers).  Under the new mandates, the
panchayats could only fell trees marked by the department.  Local
sale of slates and resin were allowed only by permission. 
According to Yugvani in Hindi Weekly from Dehradum, the villagers
could only retain a fixed share (40%) of any royalty on the sale
on produce from their forests.  

     In 1958, a committee was formed to investigate the
grievances of the people of Uttarakhand concerning forest
management.  In protest, villagers refused, as stated in the
Forest Act mandates, to put out forest fires.  It was not until
the heavy monsoon of 1970 that precipitated the turning point in
ecological history.  According to Bratt, due to the blockage of
the Ganga canal, 9.5 million acres of land in eastern Uttar
Pradesh went without irrigation. Gram Swarajya Sangh (DGSS), an
organization based in the Chamoli district organized in the mid-
60's, combated obstacles to maintain their small resin and
turpentine unit.  The Chipko Movement began in 1973 in the
village of Mandal in the upper Alakananda valley.  The DGSS was
refused permission to fell ash trees to be converted into
agricultural implements.  After DGSS did all they could to
protest, a leading activist, Chandi Prasad Bhatt, suddenly
thought of embracing the trees.  Women took their children to the
forests and formed a circle around the trees to prevent the
slaughtering of trees.

    The success of Chipko has saved some 100,000 trees from
excavation.  The styles of activism differ.  On one hand, there
is a constant flow of articles and materials and on the other
hand, there is an active fight for the survival of 70-80 percent
of saplings.  This survival is credited mostly to the women of
the peasant economy.

     The Chipko Movement is inimical to gender -- the theoretical
underpinnings as well as the political and economic ones.  Women
and children gather firewood for domestic consumption.  They rely
on the forestry for combustible crop residues such as rice straw. 
This, however, is considered inferior to fuelwood.

     Therefore, forestry activities that increase the
     availability of fuelwood and development projects that
     promote improved stoves both release women's labour
     from fuel collection and permit its use in other
     productive activities, and improve the agricultural
     environment by permitting crop residues to be better
     used for enriching depleted soil.  
     Many women claim that they are not the sole collectors of
fuelwood, as often presumed.  However, subsistence agricultural
households  may be the leading cause of world deforestation.  It
is a fact that women in the northern hill area of India such as
the Alakananda valley  respond rationally to increased resource
scarcity.  In a utility maximizing household, agricultural
residues and improved stoves are substitutes for fuelwood in
consumption.  The household can purchase or sell fuelwood and
food crops in complete and existing competitive markets, but its
purchases are constrained by the sum of household profit from the
sale of fuelwood and food crops, plus exogenous household income
from business and service activities.  

     Households may collect fuelwood from community forests and
also from trees and woody plants growing on terrace walls and
along the boundaries of each household's private agricultural
lands.  This implies that environmental problems are not just
specifically  congruent to the poor.  Both fuelwood and residues
tend to be inferior goods.  Fuelwood is inferior for higher
income households where there is a more active and higher priced
fuelwood market.  Residues are inferior for the general
population.  Therefore, environmental studies should focus on
lower class dependence on the forestry as well as including the
upper class dependency.  Many "environmentalist" would like to
claim that the Chipko movement goes against ecologically sound
policies and are hazardous to the  forests.

     The Chipko women's defense is that they are truly concerned
about the preservation of forest area but on a higher level, it
is the preservation of a little community and its values.  This
debate between the chipko women and the exogenous as well as the
endogenous community resemble on a higher level the debate of the
least developed countries (LDCs) as well as the highly developed
countries (HDCs).  The former would wish to ascribe to an
authoritative allocation of resources in the international global
economy.  The HDCs proscribe many complicated and capricious laws
that the LDCs see as contrary to their very way of life. The
combination of trade and environmental laws are seen as a
hinderance to the LDCs.  They are forced into compliance with
certain standards and regulations.

     On one hand, the Chipko women are seeking an escape from the
commercial economy and the centralizing state; at yet another
level they are assertive and aggressive, actively challenging the
ruling-class vision of a homogenizing urban-industrial culture. 
Meadows describes this as the culmination for the private
(peasant movement) and public (ecological movement) profile that
gives Chipko a distinctive quality and strength.  This ecological
as well as cultural crisis provides on a smaller scale a way that
preserving the rudimentary elements of nature.         

     Some credible solutions that have been proposed by the
leaders of the movement include abiding by the recommendations of
the state leaders which would be detrimental to the peasantry.
Historically, political power by the state bureautics have
created downstream solutions.  Since the movement effects many
boundaries, politicians need to implement a bottom-up approach. 

     For Bahuguna, shortsighted forest management is a symptom of
a deeper malaise, the anthropocentric view of nature intrinsic to
modern industrial civilization.  He claims man is the "butcher of
Earth."  Buhuguna's group is very active in the Bhageerathi
valley.  He works on what they call a prophetic mode:  attempting
to convert the uninitiated.  He asserts that modern science an
technology are largely informed by Christian ideals of human
transcendence and rightful mastery over nature.  He views do not
coincide with Western beliefs.  Bhatt, on the other hand, is
different from Bahuguna in that he believes that the villagers
play a distinctive role in deforestation.  This has been a result
of "separating the local population from the management from the
forest wealth." He claimes that the schemes proposed by the
urban-centered technocrats have little relevance to the realities
of rural India.

     Bhatt exemplifies a grassroots campaign.  Besides
afforestation camps conducted annually, they are also working on
the installation of bio-gas plants and energy saving devices that
help the underprivileged.  His movement has proven to be the most
successful.  The rate of survival of saplings (65 to 80 per cent)
the survival rate achieved in government plantations (around 10
to 15 per cent) is embarrassing.  The financial backing of the
latter far exceed the former.  The lack of sensitivity within the
government and unformulated plans that do not include rural areas
and women specific environmental projects results in failed
schemes.  A third group, the Uttarakahand Sangharsh Vahini (USV)
active in Kumaun, ideology strongly resembles Marxist theories. 
Because this movement refuses to associate itself with the state-
sponsored development programs, they have many heated
confrontations with the administration.

     Ironically,  the USV also disassociates itself with the
other two movements.  Perhaps it can be explained that this
movement prescribes to the school of thought that the human-
nature relationship must not be viewed in isolation from existing
relationships among humans.  Ecological harmony is second to the
redistribution of economic and social avenues for the UVA. 
Unlike the movement of Bahuguna and Bhatt, UVA believes in
violent uprisings.  USV prefers social movements that conform the
state.  They claim that the state has a moral responsibility for
the welfare of its citizens.  Capitalist penetration (trade) and
environmental policies (degradation) should be fixed by the state
and not by grassroots reconstruction work of afforestation
(Bhatt).  Reddy, A.K.N., emphasized the technology is alleviate
the dichotomy between the trade and the environment.  He says
that "technologies that are employment-generating; economically
sound; that promote self-reliance (both in terms of invoking mass
participation and using local resources; that tend to reduce
rather than reinforce inequalities; and that build upon, rather
than neglect, traditional skills."

     HIMALAY case
     EVEREST case
     JAMES case
     EXXON case
     TURBOT case
     DONUT case
     INDONES case
     BRAZIL case

     Keyword Clusters

     (1): Product                   = CHEMicals
     (2): Bio-geography             = TEMPerate
     (3): Environmental Problem     = Pollution Sea [POLS]

     Similar cases exist in other countries.  In the former, the
James Bay power project in Quebec, Canada resembles the Chipko
Movement, the Kayapo Indians in Brazil, the Nahuatl in Mexico,
the Peigan Indians in Alberta, Canada, and the forest project in
North Karela, Finland.  All of these cases involve the
displacement of indigenous people by the state or similar
governmental bureaucracies.  In India, other cases include the
Doon Valley Project and the Sarvodaya activists.  In the latter,
during the 60's, thousands of villagers (mostly women) opposed
the widespread sale and distillation of liquor.

4.   DRAFT AUTHOR: Charisse Espy


5.   DISCOURSE AND STATUS: DISagreement and INPROGress

     The Chipko people and the state regulating boards are
somewhat in agreement, although no treaty exists to hold the two
parties in binding obligations.  Even though the Chipko movement
has not officially had  "their day in court,"  they have presided
over other litigations.  The stage of the case towards conflict
resolution seems to be moderate.  In March of 1987, the Himalayan
battle forced the government to impose a 15-year ban on
commercial of green trees in the hills of northern Uttar Prades

7.   Scope: 1

     By reversing the laws of the indigenous people, many
loggers, landowners, corporations, plywood manufacturers, mining
companies, consumers of cheap products, undiscerning tropical
timbers buyers, developers of dams, political candidates, and
scientific ecological seekers would be adversely affected.


     The local laws more times than not are incongruent with
national laws. Because the peasants of the hills allot a certain
amount of trees to be excavated from the forests, their laws work
for them; however, when the government tries to enforce their
laws, more trees are excavated than the peasants desire.  This
makes it extremely difficult to keep an accurate count.   
No official treaties exist.



     Geographic Domain:  [Asia]
     Geographic Site:    South Asia [S Asia]
     Geographic Impact:  India






     a.   Directly Related:   NO
     b.   Indirectly Related: YES  WOOD
     c.   Not related to Product:  NO 
     d.   Related to process: YES, Deforestation    



     Between 1967-68 and 1978-79, forest revenue from the hill
districts increased from 96 to 202 million rupees.
Graph missing







23.  URGENCY AND LIFETIME: LOW and 100s of years



     The Chipko people believed that the trees were living and
breathing carbon dioxide, the same as they were.  In essence, the
trees should be respected.  The extensive forests were central to
the successful practice of agriculture and animal husbandry.  In
addition, medicinal herbs were used for healing powers.  The hill
people believed that the jungle of fruit, vegetables or roots
were used as aids in the times of scarity.  The dependence of the
hill peasant on forest resources was institutionalized through a
variety of social and cultural mechanisms.  Through religion,
folklore and oral tradition, the forests were protected by rings
of love.  Hilltops were dedicated to local deities and the trees
around the spot regarded with great respect.  Many wooded areas
were not of spontaneous growth and bore marks of the hillfolk's
instinct for the plantation and preservation of the forest;
indeed the "spacious wooded areas extending over the mountain
ranges and hill sides testimony to the care bestowed upon them by
the successive generations of the Kumaunies."

     Particularly in eastern Kumaun and around temples, deodar
plantations were preserved.  Hindus consider this magnificent
tree superior to most trees.  In such sacred groves, the
traditonal form of forest preservation, and one found all over
India, no villager would injure the vegetation in any way.  IN
parts of Tehri, leaves are offered to the goddess known as Patna
Devi.  This is only one example of the Hindu's fascination of
vegetation association with gods.  According to one elder man, in
the  Ton's valley, urbers and roots the peasantry's food during
times of scarcity are used only during culturally specified times
to inhibit overexploitation.  Although the sacredness exemplified
in the preservation of the forest, it was also the informal
management practices regulated the utilization of forest produce
by the community.      


     Cultural relativism is a term is defined as the position
according to which local cultural traditions (including
religious, political and legal practices) determine the the scope
of political and civil rights enjoyed by people of a given
community.  Relativists claim that substantive human rights
standards vary among different cultures and necessarily reflect
national idiosyncrasies.  What may be seen as a human rights
violation in one country, may be seen as a natural course of
action in another country.  The Chipko people feverently believe
that the "tree-huging," and putting rakhis around the trees are
based on cultural traditions.  The evacuation of the trees are
seen as violations of socioeconomic rights--second generation
rights.  This is seen as a direct violation of customary
international law or the sovereign borders of the indigeous


     The Himalayan region extends beyond India.  They include
China, Pakistian, Nepal, Bagledesh and Bhutan. The separation
geographically of these regions coincides with transnational
properties of the system.  The problem of the Himalyian region is
a people problem.  It is a soical economic and political problem
set against a dramatic physical backdrop--the greatest mountain
range in the world.

Agarwal, Anil, "Human-nature interactions in a Third World
country" Fifth World Conservation Lecture, The Environmentalist,
vol. 6, no. 3.

Agarwal and Narain, "India: The State of the Environment," 1985.

Annual Administrative Report for the Tehri Garhwal state 1937.

Adakari, Ajay. Interview. 13 February 1995. Professor of
Accounting at The American University.

Bahuguna, Sunderlal, "Uttarakakhand Mein Ek Sau Bis Din, in
Hindi, Dehradun. 1974.

Business International. "India Goes Greener in 1990." 17 June

Gross, Birth, Death and Migration in the Himalayas, New Delhi:
pg. 184.

Guha, Ramachandra. "The Malign Encounter:  The Chipko Movement
and Competing Visions of Nature." United Nations University/World 
Institute for Development Economics.

Guha, Ramachandra. The Unquiet Woods. University of California  
Press. Berkeley. 1989.

Guha, Ramachandra. "Ecological Roots of Development Crisis" EPW,
12 April 1986.

Inter Press Service, "Modern-Day Gandhi Forces India to Suspend
Dam Project" 10 June 1992.

Joshi, Gopa "Men propose women dispose" "Indian Express, 14
January 1982.

Meadows, Donnella, et al.  The Limits of Growth.  New York, 1971.

New York Times. "Social Activism Sprouts as India's Politics
Decay" 15 June 1982.

Reuter News Service India, "India Green says Dam Hurts Hindu    
Feelings" August 25, 1994. 

Smythies, E.A. "The resin industry in Kumaun," Forest Bulletin
No. 26 Calcutta. 1914.

Uttar Pradesh Forest Statistics


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