The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) will institute national awards in the names of Amrita Devi and Gaura Devi, two women considered pioneers of India’s environmental conservation movement. Incidentally, the awards are being initiated in the UN-declared the International Year of Forests (2011) to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and development of forests.
Amrita Devi had sacrificed her live at Khejarli village near Jodhpur nearly 280 years ago while protecting the khejri tree from the greed of the Maharajah of Jodhpur. Later, Vishnoi woman Amrita inspired Gaura Devi from Uttarakhand to lead a band of intrepid women to protect their trees at Reni village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in 1974 giving rise to the famous Chipko movement.
“The MoEF will institute national awards in their name to recognise the contributions of communities, particularly women, to the cause of forest protection and regeneration,” said Jairam Ramesh minister environment and forests.
The national awards to be instituted are against the backdrop of the first recorded event of Chipko that took place in Khejarli in 1730, when 363 Bishnois, led by Amrita Devi, sacrificed their lives while protecting green khejri trees, considered sacred by the community, by hugging them. Nearly two centuries ago, Maharajah Abhay Singh of Jodhpur required some wood to construct his new palace., today it is seen as a precursor of the Chipko movement in Garhwal.
That movement led by Gaura Devi from Uttarakhand became a benchmark for socio-ecological movements in other forest areas of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar; in September 1983. The Chipko movement inspired similar, Appiko movement in Karnataka, where tree felling in the Western Ghats and Vindhyas was stopped. In Kumaon region, Chipko took on a more radical tone, combining with the general movement for a separate Uttarakhand state, which was eventually achieved in 2000.
In recent years, the movement not only inspired numerous people to work on practical programmes of water management, energy conservation, afforestation, and recycling, but also encouraged scholars to start studying issues of environmental degradation and methods of conservation in the Himalayas and throughout India.
News Source: The Times of India