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Environmental Movements


Following the completion of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, researchers paid close attention to environmental problems. By the 1980s, the "green movement" had become a global phenomenon, embraced by many nations throughout the globe, including India.

These movements are concerned with issues such as tribal’s right to retain their indigenous traditional knowledge and livelihood, environmental protection, and the preservation of ecological equilibrium, all of which have a substantial impact on human existence.

The post-independence state failed to develop a development plan based on people's needs, instead, it was pushing forward a modern capitalist agenda that resulted in environmental degradation, poverty, and the marginalization of rural areas. It aimed to achieve drastic growth which resulted in mindless exploitation of the environment.

What do you understand by such movements?

The environmental movement is a wide generic word used to define and explain different types of local struggles and conflicts involving livelihood concerns and protecting the natural environment within the broader framework of the development debate. These efforts, in reality, criticized and questioned the Indian state and its pursuit of development. The ecological movement in India may be traced back to the Chipko movement (1973) in the Garhwal area of the newly formed state of Uttaranchal.

In fact, between the 1970s and 1980s, several struggles in India centered on issues of forest and water rights, raising larger ecological concerns such as community rights to forest resources, the sustainability of large-scale environmental projects such as dams, displacement, and rehabilitation, and so on.

Gadgil and Guha classify the environmental movements in India into four major streams based on vision, ideology, and strategy. The first types are those which emphasize the moral necessity to restrain overuse and ensure justice to the poor and marginalized. This strand is dominated by Gandhians.

The second strand emphasizes the need for resistance in dismantling the unfair socioeconomic system. Marxists largely adhere to this stream.

The third and fourth strands encourage rebuilding, i.e. using technologies that are contextually and temporally relevant. They represent scientists' worries or the spontaneous initiatives of village communities to safeguard local community forests or the right to undertake environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Nature and Demands

They contended that in order to make sustainable use of the resource, the people's customary or traditional rights, which had been long neglected by the State, should be restored, and traditional systems should be recognized. The environmental movement in India is concerned with the question of justice in terms of access and utilization.

Unlike in the West, environmental movements in India have mostly featured women, the poor, and the underprivileged masses who have been directly impacted by or are victims of environmental degradation. As a result, these movements are largely political manifestations of the fight of local communities and individuals who are directly bearing the brunt.

These movements also represent a broader understanding of economics and politics. Economic justice, as sought by these groups, entails more than merely resource distribution; it entails a broader vision, such as improving people's quality of life by recognizing people's entitlement to their natural resources, their right to live with dignity, and their involvement in decision–making. The concerns of stakeholders must be accounted for. It was realized in the pursuit of development few must not pay the cost to benefit the greater good.

Environmental pollution induced by industrialization has recently been the focus of collective action by civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and concerned individuals, particularly scientists, environmentalists, and social activists. They sought the involvement of the court and brought the state's attention to the pollution generated by industrialization.


Thus, like other social movements, environmental and ecological issues have gained prominence in India since the 1970s. These movements' concerns are not limited to any one group. They embrace the entire rural and urban communities, as well as women, tribals, peasants, middle and upper classes, and wildlife. Even the concerns they highlight affect all segments of society to various degrees. These movements heightened people's awareness and achieved considerable success. They are a critical component of India's democracy.

In contemporary times given the International awakening with regard to Climate Change, the voice in favor of Ecological balance has intensified. There is genuine consensus now among all states and respective governments that the environment can not sustain mindless exploitation. Secondly, the rights of indigenous people have gained further recognition along with the push for human rights.


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