Chipko and Appiko-Differences and Similarities
Chipko and Appiko have opted for a common approach to save the remaining forests by embracing the trees. This non-violent approach is the basic element of similarity.
However, in the Himalayas the effect of deforestation is visible in a short span and land-slides show the devastating effects of removing green cover. In Western Ghats such quick effects are rare. In the Himalayas, it is the women who are the main supporters due to the acute shortage of fuel wood and fodder. In Karnataka, the situation is not so serious, though women took active part in the Appiko, there is no shortage of fuel wood and fodder. Compared to the Himalayan women, the women in Western Ghat are better off. They can still collect fuel and fodder in the vicinity of their villages.
The crisis in Karnataka was much more related to the impact of exploiting natural forests and eventual change in the ecological balance. This change has had a serious effect on the lives of local people and their agriculture. People were much concerned as they were able to clearly see a link between deforestation and ecological changes. So they decided to take some action, and the action of hill women appealed to them most.
In Chipko, the whole movement had a firm background of Sarvodaya workers who were working for almost three decades. But there was. No such base in Karnataka. The Appiko was launched by a youth group who had some success in tackling issues of gambling and drinking. The reasons for the emergence of Appiko are found in the local culture. People have cultural links with the forest. Most villages have 'Forest Goddesses'. Appiko revived these cultural practices to enthuse people and to generate confidence in them.
The historical struggles for forest rights waged by the people in 1831 and 1930 in this district, then known as North Kanara, provided a base for the present Appiko movement. The recent agitation against the hydel dam provided the ecological perspective,
It is very important to note that the fracture of the relationship between forests and people in the Uttara Kannada district was a phenomenon of 1950's. So it was much easier to make the people aware of the disintegrating factors. In the Himalayas commercial felling has continued for over a century, and therefore to re-establish the links between man and nature is a tough task.
One of the most important aspects of the Appiko movement is the long experience and goodwill generated by Chipko struggle in the north. Due to this experience, the people in the Appiko movement were able to keep it apolitical. This has helped them to avoid pitfalls of the Chipko struggle, and the youth, who initiated Appiko were able to start with the ecological objectives which was a later addition to the Chipko movement of the north.
While the Chipko has the leadership of charismatic people like Sunderlal Bahuguna and Ghandi Prasad Bhatt, Appiko does not have such leaders. It is led by young activists under the guidance of a local youth, who had both professional training in social work and the opportunity of studying the Chipko movement in the Chamoli and Tehri Garhwal Districts of U.P. led by Sarvodaya workess of the Gandhian tradition.
Non-Violence in Action
Husri is a small village with 45 families, all of them depending on agriculture. Most of them are marginal farmers with some cultivable land. They collect leaf-litter to manure their fields. They suffered a major setback in 1969, as the natural forest of 900 acres was clear-felled near their village to plant eucalyptus. This clear felling resulted in the shortage of fuel wood and manure. The wood to make agricultural equipment was difficult to find. The medicinal herbs and honey trees had also disappeared. The villagers experienced decrease in agricultural yield due to erratic rainfall.
In October, 1983, the Forest Department sent axe men to chop more trees near Husri. The people invited Appiko activists and a village. Meeting was organized. They decided to launch Appiko and the next morning two hundred peoples, men, women and children marched into the forest. They stopped the chopping of trees by embracing them. Groups of people clung to tree trunks and within a short time the felling activity came to a halt. The contractor went to the forest office, and the District Forest Officer came to the forest. He sat with people and discussed with them. He pleaded that these trees have to be felled to meet the fuel wood demand of Sirsi town. The people posed the question: "After you fell trees, there will be no trees left for our agricultural implements or for manure. Where shall we go?" He said that they were planting new trees. Immediately one of the Local people remarked, "You plant teak and eucalyptus. They cannot provide us manure or fodder." As the discussion continued, the officer told them his inability to give an order to stop felling of trees. People told him that they would embrace the trees to save them.
Some people wanted to 'gherao' the Officer for the whole day. However, the organizers of the movement explained to them the futility of such coercive action. They said, "This kind of 'gherao' by people will invite retaliatory measures by the police who may resort to violence to free the Officer. Moreover, people will not achieve anything by troubling this officer. The goal of Appiko is to bring a change in forest policy. This Officer is an individual, who is not capable of changing the policy. It will be better to request the officer to write to his higher officials and to the Forest Minister, who have power to change the policy". The people agreed to this suggestion and they requested the Officer to, represent their case to higher officials and the Minister. Thus, at a crucial point, a confrontation with a potential of developing into a violent incident, was averted by the intervention of activists. The people were enabled to view this Officer as a human being who was performing his duty as a part of the total system. They also tried to change the attitude of this Officer and persuade him to accept their suggestion.
This non-violent approach was helpful in making the Appiko a great success. The movement drew state-wide attention and support, and the state government sent the Forest Minister to the area to study the situation first hand and to make the necessary changes in the forest policy in the light of it.
Forest Minister's Visit
By December, 1983, the Appiko movement had spread to eight specific forest areas in 'Uttara Kannada District. The response from the people was overwhelming. The news-papers and magazines carried special articles on the movement, considering the statewide interest of the public in the movement.
In the last week of December, 1983, the Forest Minister, Mr. vijiya visited Sirsi, the town near the villages where Appiko had begun. He held discussions with people and decided to walk in those forest areas. In Bilgal forest area, about 400 people walked with the Minister in teak plantations. An old man presented a bundle of eupatorium flowers (blue mist) to the Minister. It was a symbolic present because the forest area in Karnataka is threatened by the invasion of this weed.
The people took the Minister to the teak plantations. They showed him how the dry condition of soil had not allowed any undergrowth. They also took him to the natural forest area to show the difference. The people demanded that these natural forests be saved to maintain the ecological balance. An hour long meeting was held under the shade of trees. The officers fumbled in answering, the questions of the villagers. At the end, the Forest Minister agreed to stop, the clear felling of natural forests in that area.
The Minister also visited Kalase forest where the Appiko was launched. He saw the place where excessive felling of trees had taken place. Everywhere the village people turned up in large numbers in forest areas visited by the Minister. They asked questions to the Minister and the forest officials. This spontaneous response by the village people demonstrated the strength of the local movement.
At the end of his visit the Forest Minister agreed that the present method of tree felling is responsible for the destruction of forest, and that it would be changed keeping in view the ecological aspects. He assured the people that no clear felling of natural forests would take place thereafter. He gave specific orders to stop the felling of already marked green trees. He announced to the village people that only dead and dry trees will be cut from the forest. This was a great success for people's movement within a short span of six months.
The visit by the Minister enhanced the confidence of rural people. They saw the success of people's power. Wherein their strength compelled the government to send a Minister to acquaint himself with the situation which sparked off the save forest movement. Their determination to follow the path of nonviolence to protect nature attracted nationwide attention.
The major problem has been the reaction from vested interests, i.e groups of forest contractors and bureaucrats. The forest contractors tried to instigate violence by deliberately provoking the local people. However, the people kept cool inspire of these provocations. The contractors even tried to bribe the police force, asking them to register false cases against the protesting people. Even this failed as the police declined to oblige the contractors.
Later the forest officials resorted to a sustained propaganda in the press dubbing Appiko as unscientific and anti-development. They argued that people were solely responsible for destroying forest resources.
The local politicians tried hard to make use of Appiko movement to broaden their popular base. They tried to bring pressure and sent their men to infiltrate the core group of Appiko. But the strong determination and the will of local activists foiled their tactics. The politicians were kept aloof from any decision-making process concerning the Appiko movement.
Objectives of Appiko
Appiko is struggling for an alternative development strategy to establish harmonious relationship between man and nature. There are three major objectives of the movement.
To save the remaining tropical forest resource of the Western Ghats, and involve local action groups to take responsibility for launching Appiko, and to demand a basic change ill the forest policy from commercial and revenue-based objective to ecological objective of preserving soil and water of this region.
To grow more trees and to create an atmosphere for natural regeneration of forests in the denuded area. The idea is to plant five 'F' trees, named Food, Fruit, Fodder, Fuel wood, Fertilizer and Fiber trees. Local participation is an essential part of this objective.
This is basically directed towards people. At times people are also responsible for the depletion of forests. Appiko tries to bring attitudinal change among people. It pertains to changing the harmful practices followed by local people, like lopping the tree in rainy season etc. Appiko also propagates alternative energy sources like bio-gas plants and improved stoves etc. This aim is the rational use of eco-sphere.
To accomplish the above objectives, an informal institution, '''Parisara Sanmraksharia Kendra (Environmental Conservation Centre)" has been formed in Sirsi. Various activists from village groups have got together to form this organization which is not a registered body.
Appiko Movement has successfully used well known rural communication techniques. In rural areas, street-plays, folk songs and dance drama on nature preservation conveyed the message to a large number of people. Yakshagana, a traditional folk theatre has adopted the idea of sustainable development and these plays have attracted wide public attention through-out the state and many parts of the country. In simple words, it conveys the idea of harmony between man and nature for eternal prosperity.
In addition to these cultural activities, the activists have launched numerous Padayatras in the interior villages 10 spread the message. In I987, Appiko activists covered a distance of 1450 kilometers in the Western Ghats, along the river catchments. This Padayatra involved local people in various districts of Karnataka, The slide shows, and lectures by activists in the schools and colleges are an attempt to involve the younger generation by creating environmental awareness among them.
The press at the state and national levels has played an important role in spreading the ideas of the Appiko movement to wider sections of people. In Karnataka, literary men, poets and the cartoonists have contributed their talent in conveying the message.
Impact of Appiko Movement
Within a short time, the movement has become well-known all over Karnataka. It has given a new impetus to the ecological awareness. People in Kodagu, another hill district of Karnataka, have also launched Appiko movement to save the forests from the axe men of plywood factory. They have stayed in forests for months. Eventually, they have forced the state government to issue orders to ban felling in the forests of Kodagu district. Spreading of this movement from one part of Karnataka to another is a clear indication of the success of Appiko message.
The government has also responded positively. It has changed the forest policy and has reoriented it to correspond with the maintenance of ecological stability in the interest of the people. Recently, the state government has issued orders to stop felling of green trees in the Western Ghats. Thus, the movement has attained some success in changing the government policies.
The movement is not controlled by any single organization. It involves people at the grassroots level and the decisions are taken by local groups themselves. The decentralization of decision-making has been instrumental in building local leadership in various areas. People have gained self-confidence when local organizations have achieved success. This has awakened people's power as they are asking for change in the government policy. The movement is also self-reliant in meeting its financial needs. The resource is generated from local people, in cash and kind. Financial and political independence are the dominant features of people's movements like Appiko and Chipko. Here, one should make a clear distinction between the functioning of non-governmental organizations and those of people's movement. Movements have a wider base. They are without any hierarchy; there are volunteers but not paid workers. The movement provides opportunities to all the sections of society to contribute their talent to attain the objective. At times, the presence of non-governmental organizations acts as hindrance to the emerging people's movement. A people's people's movement cannot be run by "professional" workers with career orientation who seek security and comforts of life. It requires "devoted" people to work for the cause and be prepared to live an austere life amidst people. The major achievement of Appiko is the involvement of devoted activists to spread the message.
In conclusion, Appiko Or Chipko movement is the manifestation of the failure of current development process that exploits natural resources for the benefit of a few. The movement is attempting to redefine development process which is sustainable. It lays emphasis on harmony between man and nature with its slogan: "Ecology is permanent economy".
Environment Activist, Alumnus of Delhi School of Social Work,
A Full Bright awardee, he travelled 3 months for delivering lectures on environmental issues. Universities in USA.