10 Famous Environmentalists that every Indian should know about

Climate change, global warming, environmental degradation, ecological pollution. We could go on and on with the many terms that describe the massive environmental crisis that the world is currently facing. But we won’t as the fact is these are no longer buzzwords but a serious reality. What the world needs is leaders and eco crusaders who put it all on the line to fight the menace that is threatening to destroy the bounty of nature. And don’t worry-even if you are not one of those leaders, there are small individual ways you can make a difference. If you need some inspiration, below we have rounded up a list of some of the country’s brightest and most influential ecological warriors. Read on, start today and remember, all it takes is one.

  1. Sunderlal Bahuguna: One of the most well known Indian environmentalists and a true son of the country is a man by the name of Sunderlal Bahugana. The leader of the Chipko forest conservation movement, Bahuguna was a recipient of the Padma Vibushan award in 2009 and his tireless efforts are symbolized in the Chipko slogan- “Ecology is permanent economy.” A lifelong conservationist, Bahuguna is also known for his decades long contribution to the anti Tehri dam protests.
  2. Medha Patkar: Medha Patkar, one of India’s most well known female environmentalists is the woman behind the “Narmada Bachao Aandolan”. Her dedicated service towards ecology and protecting the livelihoods of families during the construction of Narmada dam led her to win the Swedish “Right to Livelihood” Award in 1991.
  3. Salim Ali: Rightly called the “Birdman of India”, Salim Ali was a devoted ornithologist and naturalist. He is also recognized for pioneering the use of systematic surveys of birds in India, the creation of Bharatpur Bird Sanctury and the protection of the Silent Valley National Park. A devoted servant of ecology, Salim Ali dedicated himself to protection and conservation for 50 years and played a significant role in shaping India’s environmental policies.
  4. Rajendra Singh: Known by the moniker, “Waterman of India”, Rajendra Singh, has dedicated his life to working towards efficient water management and harvesting. Singh is most well known for his 3 decades work to revive and rejuvenate water bodies in India with his dedicated service resulting in the revival of over 12 water bodies in the regions of Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. This in turn helped in the recharging of aquifers. A 2001 Magasaysay and 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner, Rajendra Singh is a true inspiration for any budding eco crusaders.
  5. Sumaira Abdulali: A lesser known name in this list, Sumaira Abdulali has been working in the field of environmental conservation since 2002 with her main focus being sand mining and noise pollution. Through her work with the NGO Awaaz Foundation, she played a crucial role in implementing silence zones and safe zone limits during festivals. And despite resistance and extreme threats from ruling politicians and sand mafias, Sumaira Abdulali has remained committed to her goals. She is an inspiration to many and a tireless conservationist.
  6. Jadav Payeng, also known as the “Forest Man of India.” comes from the state of Assam. A devoted environmentalist, he is recognized for single handedly creating a 550 hectare long man-made forest Muali Reserve in the Majuli island. Payeng dedicated 30 years trying to restore the threatened forest and planted bamboo and other plant species to help. Through his efforts, the forest currently encompasses an impressive 1350 hectares of land and a variety of wildlife.
  7. Mike Pandey: A filmmaker focused on environmental and wildlife films, Mike Pandey is most known for his movie “Vanishing Giants” which is based on elephants. Through his work raising awareness about the Whale Shark and its conservation, he was recognized by the UNEP which awarded him the CMS-UNEP Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Conservation. Pandey also won the green Oscar becoming the first Asian producer to do so and has been since recognized for his service to environmental protection by winning the award three more times.
  8. M. C. Mehta: A public interest attorney, MC Mehta is responsible for several landmark judgments in the arena of environmental law in India. Mehta has worked on a number of critical environmental issues plaguing the country such as industrial pollution along the Ganges, corrosion of Taj Mahal and shrimp farming along the coast. His efforts led to the introduction of lead-free gasoline in India and the ban on shrimp farming. A green advocate, his contributions in the dual fields of law and environment led to the introduction of the discipline of environmental studies at the undergraduate level in Indian law schools.
  9. Kinkri Devi: A famous female activist and environmentalist, Devi is best known for her fight against illegal quarrying and mining in the state of Himachal Pradesh. From humble beginnings as a sweeper, Devi dedicated her life to protecting the environment. And her efforts were recognized by being awarded the Stree Shakti award in 1999.
  10. M. S. Swaminathan: Last but not least is Mr. MS Swaminathan. A name familiar to most Indians, Swaminathan is best known for being the father of the India’s Green Revolution. His work in developing and introducing high yielding wheat and rice varieties to India in the 1960s was responsible for helping making the country self sufficient, resolving food security for millions of Indians and eradicating famine in India and Asia.

Giving Back with a Difference

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