Eminent environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna succumbs to Covid-19

He died at noon at Rishikesh’s AIIMS hospital where he was undergoing treatment

Image Courtesy:hindustantimes.com

Generations of schoolkids across India first heard of Sunderlal Bahuguna from their school books, in the social science chapter on the Chipko movement. Chipko, means stick to, in this case embrace or hug, and it was environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna who took this term and made it globally recognised.

The movement was conceptualised by environmentalist and Gandhian activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt who founded the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal (DGSM). As recorded in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Chipko movement’s “major success came in 1980, when an appeal from Bahuguna to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi resulted in a 15-year ban on commercial felling in the Uttarakhand Himalayas.” A report by India Today recalled that in the following year, the “government wanted to honour his efforts by awarding him the title of Padma Shri, but he turned it down”. It was only in 2009, that Bahuguna was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan.

On Friday May 21, 94-year-old Sunderlal Bahuguna died of Covid-19 related complications at Rishikesh’s All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) where he was undergoing treatment. Bahuguna was hospitalised on May 8 and was on ventilator support, stated news reports. According to AIIMS (Rishikesh) public relations officer Harish Mohan Thapliyal, “Bahuguna passed away at around 12 noon. He was on ventilator support as he was severely infected…”. Thapliyal told the media that the pioneering environmentalist had also been suffering from high blood sugar and hypertension. According to V Nautiyal of the media relations department at the premier health institute, Bahuguna had been bedridden for around seven months at his residence in Dehradun and “Due to Covid-19, he had also developed pneumonia which worsened his health condition along with high blood sugar and hypertension. However, a special team of doctors was assigned to look after him at the hospital while providing every possible treatment to him” stated news reports.

President Ram Nath Kovind led the nation in paying homage.








Bahguna led the Anti-Tehri Dam movement from the 1980s till 2004, he was even jailed in 1995. By then he had become a household name, and a legendary inspiration to those working in the environmental sector, and was recognised for his Gandhian way of protest across the globe. Always photographed with a smile on his face, his head covered with a scarf, dressed in cotton kurtas, Bahuguna seemed almost sage like to many. A recipient of India’s second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, he remained a simple, accessible man, more a village elder than an international celebrity.


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