Beyond Chipko!

Aug 5th, 2011 | By | Category: Biodiversity, Forest, Guest Speak, India, M-20 CAMPAIGN

Manish Semwal: I wish to share with you that how the local actions could make difference at global level and the overall scenario of our forest.

As we observe various environmental issues around the world those need to be focused immediately, keeping in mind that what we do locally affect globally. The environmental concerns related to deforestation, forest fire, landslide, water pollution to urban pollution need immediate local actions and global attention.

Photo-1: Villagers surrounding a tree to stop it from being felled in Uttarakhand, India. Source Wikipedia.

Let’s me give an example, Brazil contains about 3.5 million km2 of tropical forest which is 30 percent of world’s total forest. Countries like Brazil and Indonesia are world’s two largest surviving regions of rain forests are being stripped at an alarming rate by logging, fires, and land-clearing for agriculture and other purposes. An estimate says that the present deforestation rate is about 100,000 km2 per year. Of the total Tropical forest which was 16 million sq km. is now only 8-9 million sq km. In this way the Latin America and Asia have already lost 40 percent of their original forest.

Photo-2: Surviving participants of the first all-woman Chipko action at Reni village in 1974 on left jen wadas, reassembled thirty years later. Source-Wikipedia

The FAO’s report says that India has 23 percent forested area (68,434,000 ha) of which 22.9 percent is classified as primary forest, which is known as most bio-diverse and a perfect sink for carbon.

In general the forests have been exploited mostly for fuel, building materials and to clear land for farming and industrial purposes. More than 1500 species of trees are commercially exploited for timber in different parts of India.

Currently, an estimated 15 to 20 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted by human activities results from deforestation or, more generally, from changes in land use pattern. Coincidentally, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually from deforestation around the world is of the same order of magnitude as the amount of additional carbon dioxide that would be discharged if the 14% of primary energy now supplied by biomass fuels globally were instead supplied by oil and coal.

In my view the deforestation is one of the major human induced factors leading to various environmental problems in Himalayan region and across the globe. There is no force to recover natural processes except the activities related to forest conservation and management, that will help living being on this earth in the larger context of adaptation. As I see, the government policies in Himalayan region have almost failed to conserve forest in most of the cases, whereas many initiatives taken by the local communities have made a difference through their shared responsibilities, concerted and common efforts. Among many there are a few well known interesting examples like Chipko movement in Uttarakhand India (Photo-1, 2) that inspired similar initiatives like Appiko in Southern part of India and Tree Hugger in Australia.

“Maatu hamru, paani hamru, hamra hi chhan yi baun bhi… pitron na lagai baun, hamunahi ta bachon bhi”

[Soil ours, water ours, ours are these forests. Our forefathers raised them; it’s we who must protect them. — Old Chipko Song (Garhwali language)]

Here it is important that our educational and research institutions in Himalayan region really come forward to learn from such initiatives and take them forward appropriately. This could be done through the collaborative efforts of government, civil society groups, autonomous research institutions and regional agencies in this part of the world.

I am sure that from our common efforts through the active involvement of local communities we can not only conserve and manage our forest biodiversity, but, such actions will also help in various interrelated issues of land management, soil erosion, water conservation, food security and livelihood in Himalayan region.

Let’s complement and supplement Chipko!

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Dr. Manish SemwalAuthor: Dr. Manish Semwal wrote this article for Climate Himalaya. Born in the foothills of Himalaya in Uttrakhand, India, Geography was the passion of Dr. Manish Semwal since his school days. He did a Masters from St. Johns College Agra, India and qualified for national test for college lecturership in India and then did a Ph D. He worked as Head and Lecturer of Geography in BRJS College Aligarh and RBS College Agra in India. After working in India he worked with UNDP in Africa and at present in Department of Geography and Environmental Studies in Jakarta, Indonesia as Extended Essay Coordinator and Head. You can read about him at his blog and contact him at Email

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Himalaya group.

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Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>

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4 Comments to “Beyond Chipko!”

  1. ‘Chipko’ means stick to it. We need to stick to a lot of things as our present reality encourages us to drift (sadly). So, as inspired by our Garhwali Masters, we should rethink and consider all the values that we should stick to.

    Timely and apt narative. Thanks Manish.

    • Manish Semwal says:

      Thanks dear Pabitra. I am sure in near future Climate Himalaya will serve this purpose and people like you will motivate others who are really concern about this cause.

  2. Shankar Sharma says:

    I am one of those deeply concerned about the unsustainable level of exploitation of Himalayan region. I am also sad to have missed the long march along Himalayas in 80s/90s which was lead by Mr. Sunderlal Bahuguna. ……I am of the modest opinion that unless the present generation (during next 10-20 years) take responsibility to do all that is possible to protect these sentinels of our life, the future generations will not forgive us. I am sure most of you know how the disinformation/ misinformation campaign by vested interests is going on to plunder the wealth of Himalayas. We have many more tools/experiences/knowledge now to take to the people there, and through them to influence the policies of the state and central governments.

    • Manish Semwal says:

      Dear Mr. Sharma,
      I am also like you who missed many opportunities to really work for conservation of himalayan environment. Now I am sure that Climate Himalaya will make all youth to be reunited and really work for this cause. Your support is always needed.

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