While the world is busy in destroying the environment in every way possible, many heroes are saving it with absolute grit.
They’re few and far between, but they do exist, and their examples need to be followed.
On this World Environment Day, let’s celebrate our heroes.
The man behind the famous Chipko movement
This 93 years old hero and his wife are the people behind the famous Chipko movement. For years Suderlal Bahuguna has been fighting for the preservation of forests in the Himalayas. First as a member of the Chipko movement in the ’70s, and later spearheaded the Anti-Tehri Dam movement starting the ’80s, to early 2004.
In 1974, Chipko movement was started as an effort to save areas of trees and forests from cutting by forest contractors in Uttar Pradesh. Chipko movement later inspired the Appiko Movement in Karnataka. Sunderlal Bahuguna helped bring the movement to prominence through about a 5,000-kilometer trans-Himalaya march, travelling from village to village, gathering support for the movement.
Sunderlal Bahuguna had an appointment with the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and that meeting is credited with resulting in Mrs Gandhi’s subsequent 15-year ban on cutting of green trees in 1980.
The man who converted arid land into a 1360 acre forest
The Forest Man of India, Jadav “Molai” Payeng has planted and tended trees on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra turning it into a forest reserve. The forest, called Molai forest, named after the man, is located near Kokilamukh of Jorhat, Assam. It is spread across an area of about 1,360 acres (550 hectares). In 2015, Jadav Payeng was honoured with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
The forest now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, and over 100 deer and rabbits. It is also home to monkeys and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
The lawyer who cleaned 5 million kgs of trash from Mumbai beach
A Mumbai lawyer who took baby steps to clean the filth that covered Versova beach for so long.
In the year 2015, Aforz Shah started a cleanliness drive that soon snowballed into the biggest beach cleanup in the world. Local residents started to join in, and the UN also sent in volunteers to help.
Over 85 weeks, the team managed to clean 5 million kgs of garbage and plastic, planted several coconut trees, and changed the face of the Versova beach in the process.
Later on, Shah partnered with the “Dawoodi Bohra’s Turning the Tide” campaign to remove plastic from the Mithi river and Dana Pani beach in Mumbai.
He quit Google to restore lakes across India
The Rolex Awards for enterprise awardee and the founder of the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) has restored 39 lakes and 48 ponds across India.
This Chennai lad is a former Google employee and a well-known face in the Indian environment and natural resources conservation sector.
EFI has carried out restoration works in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, and Gujarat to date. The cleanup process includes the removal of trash and invasive botanical species from lakes, which includes thorny bushes and water hyacinths.
A trekker relocated to the Himalayas to keep it safe
An ardent trekker, Pradeep was shocked by the piles of plastic waste along the paths on the beautiful Himalayan treks. Rather than ignoring them, he decided to make clearing them a life mission. An impromptu relocation decision brought Pradeep to the Himalayas, and that choice changed his life forever.
With volunteers armed with jute bags, Pradeep began organizing cleanup drives. The team has managed to collect around 4,00,000 kgs of waste since they started!
“We all know the Himalayas are our protectors. But we didn’t want to miss even the tiniest opportunity of giving back. That’s how ‘Healing Himalayas’ came into the picture. Our habits are the shelter for many calamities. A small change in every individual’s lifestyle can bring in a lot of change. This is exactly what we are doing through our ground action. A change for good, no matter how small it is, can bring in lots of positivity around.”
A lady with no children, now having thousands of plants as her family
An environmentalist with no primary education, Saalumarada Thimmakka planted 384 trees along with her late husband Chikkaiah, which adorn a 5 kilometre stretch between the villages of Hulikal and Kudoor. She has also planted nearly 8000 other trees with the support of her husband; she finds solace in planting trees.
Despite facing a lot of backlash for her decision and efforts, Thimmakka dedicated her life to plant and care for the trees instead of having children.
She was also conferred with Padma Shri in 2019.