Emma Watson, well known British actress best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, recently got on Instagram to post on the Chipko movement that took place in 1973. It has garnered more than two million ‘likes’.
She posted a photograph of women clinging to a tree and wrote, ‘Thank you for protecting our forests and trees’. She also added, ‘the women pictured here were part of the Chipko movement, a non-violent social and ecological moment by rural villagers, particularly women, in India, during the 1970s. Here they are protecting a tree from government logging.’
She explained the word ‘Chipko’, saying, ‘the Hindi word Chipko, means to ‘hug’ or ‘cling to’, reflected in the demonstrator’s primary tactic of embracing trees to protect them from loggers.’
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The Chipko Andolan or movement that took place in 1973 in present day Uttarakhand, was hailed the world over as a unique protest by villagers to save trees from felling. It resulted in a ban on cutting trees and induced the government to change the age-old Indian Forest Act of 1927 into a Forest Conservation Act in 1980.
Sadly, noted environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna, who was synonymous with the Chipko movement, passed away in May this year due to COVID-19. He was 94 years old. His fight for the preservation of the fragile eco system of the Himalayas is well known. He led the anti-Tehri Dam movement and was particularly concerned about mega developmental projects in the region and degeneration of village life.
Alongside her acting work, Emma Watson campaigns on climate, social and gender equality issues. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women – the United Nations organization which promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women. She was present at the global climate summit in Glasgow, known as COP26, where she also moderated a discussion between activists Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Amanda Gorman, Vanessa Nakate and many others.
Today at The New York Times Climate Hub, @GretaThunberg, @vanessa_vash and many other climate leaders took a temperature check on COP26 so far, in a surprise session curated by @EmmaWatson. #NYTClimateHub continues tomorrow for Educate on Climate day at https://t.co/FXkYMisz44. pic.twitter.com/P7SPKIBm3u
— New York Times Events (@nytimesevents) November 4, 2021
Emma Watson’s Instagram post on the Chipko Movement comes at a time when Uttarakhand has been seeing major ecological disasters like flash floods, landslides and loss of biodiversity and yet the mountains are continually plundered for the sake of road constructions and other urban development. Scientists and environmental activists have highlighted the blatant disregard for environmental concerns and effect of climate change that could have been behind the flash flood in Chamoli that took the lives of many.
In 2014, the Supreme Court had appointed an expert committee headed by noted environmentalist Ravi Chopra to examine the effect of 24 existing and under-construction Hydro Electric Projects which could in future further aggravate the impact of the devastating Kedarnath flash floods in 2013. In its report, the committee had recommended closure of 23 out of 24 projects. It had also cautioned about perilous geographical conditions of such periglacial zones in the Himalayas where any climactic activity could result in devastation.
Emma’s sudden social media post is perhaps an indication that environment activists have noted the flagrant disregard of ecological balance that is taking place in widening of 889 km Char Dham road across the state by cutting away precious trees, destabilising mountains by blasting and deforestation, soil erosion and drying up of water resources – are all causing irreversible damage to the breathtakingly beautiful Himalayan ranges.