Man in India is a cultural being and culture emanates from worship of rivers, forests and resources. Environment and Nature establishes a deep link between man and his culture.
Environmental movement in India is the product of difference between the perception of state about the nature and perception of common man about the same. When state considers it as a tool for growth, development, acceleration of wealth to its contrast, man considers nature as expression of belief, love and aesthetics. The overexploitation of nature has led to exploitation of tribals, pastorals, or people living in the vicinity of forest areas or natural resources. When private developers make huge gain by appropriating wealth, locals feel the brunt of growth due to displacement, marginalization and eviction and loss of livelihood and their culture.
Indian environmental movements have political, ideological and material connotations. The material context is provided by the wide-ranging struggles over natural resources. These conflicts have set in opposition on the one side, social groups who have gained from economic development while being insulated from ecological degradation and on the other poorer and relatively powerless groups such as small peasants, pastoral nomads, tribal and fishing communities whose livelihood have been seriously undermined through a combination of resource flows biased against them and a growing deterioration of the environment
Guha and Gadgil indicate that environmental movements are the products of unsustainable development process. While Gandhian crusaders consider that environmental movements are directed against big dams and industries. There go for small and medium industries at the village level.
Ecological feminist consider that gender equality can only be established if women’s right over nature is guaranteed, protected and respected because it is a means of livelihood. Women movements like Chipko are getting momentum for legitimate right of women over nature.
Socialist Environmwentalist considers that state and big industries monopolized the natural treasure which was traditionally linked to local people and tribals. This gave rise to environmental movements in India.
Environmental movements in India are carried out in 3 ways
1. Through organized mobilization and struggle as in case of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Yamuna Bachao Samiti, Ganga Mukti Abhiyan etc
2. Through extensive use of media both print and electronics to propagate their idea. Leading environmental activists Sunderlal Bahuguna and Baba Amte wrote signed articles in newspapers, drawing attention to the struggle they were engaged in. There has been extensive coverage by print media in reporting, interpreting and publicizing nature-based conflicts in modern India. Less visible but equally significant are the programmes of ecological restoration that various social action groups have undertaken.
3. Creating awareness through tree plantation camps, soil and water conservation programs and adoption of environmentally sound technologies.
They employ different methods like Rasta Roko, Jal Samadhi, Pradarshan, Gherao or Jail Bharo to court their dissatisfaction.
Paul Brass call these movements as Grass root movements while Rajni Kothari calls them as Non Party Movements.
An influential line of thinking within the state and state agencies is scientific conservation. We can see the work done by B.B Vohra a senior bureaucrat who was the first to draw public attention to land and water degradation. He noted in his paper ( 1973) that no countrywide organization or policy to deal with these problems ,nor was there coordination between concerned government departments. For him the solution lies in the creation of new ministries and departments to deal with problems of environmental degradation.
State is seen as the ultimate guarantor of environmental protection by many and the formation of Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 ,Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and Environment Protection Act of 1986 were seen in that direction.
Thus in order to encapsulate, environment movement can be considered as new social movements because they are issue specific and inclusive in character, unlike identity focused movements based on caste, class or ethnicity