Sunderlal Bahuguna (born 9 January 1927) is a noted Garhwali environmentalist, Chipko movement leader and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Non-violence and Satyagraha. This idea of chipko movement was of his wife and the action was taken by him. For years he has been fighting for the preservation of forests in the Himalayas, first as a member of the Chipko movement in the 1970s, and later spearheaded the Anti-Tehri Dam movement starting 1980s, to early 2004. He was one of the early environmentalists of India, and later he and people associated with the Chipko movement later started taking up environmental issues, like against large dams.
He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour, on 26 January 2009.
Sunderlal Bahuguna was born in village Maroda near Tehri, Uttarakhand on 9 January 1927. He claimed in a function arranged at Kolkata, that his ancestors bearing surname Bandopadhyaya, migrated from Bengal to Tehri, some 800 years ago. Early on, he fought against untouchability and later started organising hill women in his anti-liquor drive from 1965 to 1970. He started social activities at the age of thirteen, under the guidance of Shri Dev Suman, who was a nationalist spreading message of non-violence and he was with Congress party of Uttar Pradesh (India) at the time of Independence. Bahuguna also mobilised people against colonial rule before 1947. He adopted Gandhian principles in his life and married his wife Vimla with the condition that they would live among rural people and establish ashram in village. Inspired by Gandhi, he walked through Himalayan forests and hills, covering more than 4,700 kilometres by foot and observed the damage done by mega developmental projects on fragile eco-system of Himalaya and subsequent degradation of social life in villages.
Chipko movement was started in 1973 spontaneously in [Uttar Pradesh], in an effort to save trees and forests from felling by forest contractors. In Hindi, “Chipko” literally means “to stick” and people started sticking to trees when it was being cut. Chipko movement later inspired Appiko Movement in Karnataka. One of Sunderlal Bahuguna’s notable contributions to that cause, and to environmentalism in general, was his creation of the Chipko’s slogan “Ecology is permanent economy.” Sunderlal Bahuguna helped bring the movement to prominence through about 5,000-kilometer trans-Himalaya march undertaken from 1981 to 1983, travelling from village to village, gathering support for the movement. He had an appointment with the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and that meeting is credited with resulting in Ms. Gandhi’s subsequent 15-year ban on felling of green trees in 1980. He was also closely associated with Gaura Devi, one of the pioneers of the movement.