The Chipko movement of the Uttarakhand region in the northwest part of India began as a communal reaction of local villagers to protect their forests from commercial deforestation practices. The term “Chipko” which literally means “to embrace”, was designated to these villagers who reacted by actually hugging the trees. It became so popular that the movement spread throughout all of India and different parts of Asia. Local women of the region are central to the movement’s success and continue to be its backbone. In fact over the decades, Chipko has been known for its ecofeminist strategies.
This case study will examine the development of the envrionmental problems over the decades and study the social and cultural elements implicit in the communities of the Uttarkhand Himalyan region. From 1815 to 1949 Uttarakhand was divided into two kingdoms, Tehri Garhwal state and the colonial territory of Kumaun (Shiva, 7). The political structure of hill society in those two kingdoms was distinct from the rest of India in that along with the prescense of communal tradition, there as an absence of sharp class division (Shiva 14).
The land was understood to belong to the community rather as a whole even though there was a caste system in place. The natural environment for the hill people consisted of a system of tillage and methods of crop rotation (Shiva 15). The production was directed towards subsistence in which the surplus was exported to Tibet and southwards to the plains. In fact, the communities living in the hill usually had six months of stock in grain with supplement of fish, fruit, vegetable, and animal meat (Shiva, 15).
The hill district constituted over 60% of owner-cultivators and 80% of the total population farmed with the help of family labour. By the turn of the century, nine-tenths of the hill men cultivated with full-ownership rights . ” The absence of sharp inequalities in land ownership within body cultivating propietors –who formed bulk population–was basis for sense solidarity village community. Because those who owned worked community together to sustain their existence. men not only maintained household economy by collecting fooder fuel and food family they equally with husbands field cultivated reared cattle as well. The absence of intermediaries and class divisions within the villages is also due to the “ecological characteristics of mountain society. ” look at page 30 for the way tradition played a role in the preservation of the environment and the way villagers worked with nature. The building of railway network that began the science forestry and social change of the community. Forestry in Gharwal Forestry in Kumaun Early Resistence to the forestry techniques and rules.
In the recent decades, the availability of natural resources to the rural communities of the Uttarakhand region as well as in other rural communities has eroded tremendously due to two linear, interrelated processes that have undermined the traditional institutional arrangement of resource use and management which existed in many of the areas: 1) the degradation of the forests both in quantity and quality and 2) the appropriation of land by state to preferred ndividuals and the privatization of land to timber or profit-seeking corporations.
As a result there has been a shift away from community resource management and control which was proven to be more effective in ecological regeneration and deteriorating soil conditions, depleting water resources, and disappearing forests. Although there is no exact data as to the extent of the degeneration, there is enough that indicates the depletion of the resources as real and substantial, increasing at a rapid rate under the control of external hands.