Thirty years ago, many women of the Bishnoi community in Rajasthan (India), led by Amrita Devi, sacrificed their lives to save their khejri, sacred trees, by putting their arms around them. The Chipko story begins with this event.
In the middle of the Himalayas, in the 1970s, Chipko women created the Hug The Tree Movement. The defense of the trees with one’s own body is the instrument of struggle, to defend the forest, the source of sustenance of their society. Deforestation is causing a natural disaster, the land is degrading and water sources are polluting and wild animals are dying.
The message is that forests are not only a source of timber supply, but they generate a clean and healthy environment, the salvation of a global ecosystem.
Born from Gandhi’s message of non-violent struggle, in India the movement obtains a ban on cutting down the Himalayan forests for 15 years. It was the time of Indira Gandhi, but the protection still lasts today.
The fighting technique? Hug the trees and resist (“Chipko” in Hindi means “to cling”).
In 1973 a woman who was grazing cows saw some people with axes, she called the companions who surrounded these men together saying: “This forest is our mother. When there is little food, we come here to collect herbs and dried fruit. to feed our children. We find plants and mushrooms. You cannot touch these trees. ” Together, they established surveillance teams and the government was forced to form a committee, which recommended a 10-year cessation of commercial cuts in the Alakananda Basin.
It worked the trees were not cut down this time.
One entrepreneur said, at the height of the hard confrontation:
“You stupid village women, do you know what these forests produce?
Resin, wood, and a lot of foreign currency! ”
The women replied:
“Yes, we know. What the forests yield.
Earth, water, and pure air,
earth, water, and pure air. ”
The victories have sometimes consisted in the moratorium on deforestation, other times in the replanting in nearby areas.
Sarala Behn wrote in 1978: “We must remember that the main role of hilly forests should not be to provide income, but to maintain the balance of climatic conditions throughout northern India and the fertility of the Ganges plain … if we ignore it. the cyclical and recurrent alternation of floods and droughts will be dangerously accelerated ”.
Almost 10 years later, in December 1987, two prizes were awarded in Stockholm: Robert Solow, of MIT, received the Nobel Prize in Economics, for his theory of growth based on the superfluity of nature; at the same time, the alternative Nobel Prize – Prize for the Right to Life – was awarded to the women of the Chipko movement who, as leaders and activists, have placed forest life above their own and, with their own actions, have affirmed that nature is essential for survival.
Carlo Papalini | Quercophilus