The Environmental Movement: Global Issues and the Indian Reality JANKI...
The Environmental Movement: Global Issues
and the Indian Reality
The environmental movement globally and in India comprises a diversity of
organisations with common orientations but with varying emphases and strategies.
In India, the movement emerged as a response to a wide spectrum of struggles and
conflicts over the use of natural resources, social justice issues and violation of
human rights. A typology based on movement categories by issues and examples,
provides a pointer to the diversity of organisations, issues and ideology that
contribute to the environmental movement in the country. A review of key
ideological underpinnings of these organisations and the differences highlight the
points of tension, the paradoxes and contradictions underlying the actions of key
organisations in the movement. The contributions of Gandhian thought, ecological
Marxism, Green ideology, eco-feminism and eco-socialism are reviewed. The
ideologies of the environmental movement are apparently distinct, but sometimes
overlap. Many organisations are not exclusively environment-oriented, which*
raises the question, 'Is the environmental movement in India the new social
expressions rooted in old ideologies?
Dr. Janki Andharia is Reader and Head, Department of Urban and Rural
Community Development and Dr. Chandan Sengupta, Reader, Unit for Urban
Studies, Tata Institute of Social. Sciences, Mumbai.
The canvas of environmental movements is vast and includes very diverse
environment issues. It requires an integrated analysis of various strands
ranging from inter-relationships between science, eco-systems, liveli-
hoods systems to public policy and international politics. Similarly,
environment relationships may thus be explored over a wide range of
levels, from the sub-atomic to the cosmic. Thus in the context of the
environmental movement th^re is need to examine how science, social
theories and ideologies of people's organisations and public policies
have shaped what we recognise today as the environmental movement,
with special reference to the Indian context.

The Environmental Movement 423
Shifts in Development Discourse: Significance of Science and
For more than a century, the thrust of all development activities has
been on industrialisation, trade and urbanisation as symbols of national
growth and progress. As one report points out, 'Since 1900, the world's
population has multiplied more than three times, its economy has
grown twenty fold, the consumption of fossil fuels has grown by a
factor of thirty and industrial production by a factor of fifty. Most of
that growth, about four fifths of it, occurred since 1950' (Mc Neil,
Winsemius and Yakushij, 1991:3). It was almost a universally ac-
cepted conviction that economic growth depended on rapid industri-
alisation. Development policies attempting a transition from an
agrarian economy to an industrial economy, therefore, concentrated
on increasing production and reducing poverty.
With rapid and radical transformation made possible because of
advances in science and technology, the 1960s saw the development
of movements of 'contestation' amongst Western youth, expressing
rejection of forms of lifestyles imposed by capitalism, its expansionist
endeavours, the alienating work, the patriarchal family and militarisa-
tion. 'Materialism, technology power, profit and growth were charac-
terised as symbols of all that was worst about Western society and as
posing a threat to the environment' (Mc Cormick, 1989: 64). The late
sixties provided a further momentum to these movements through
theories based on the work of the Frankfurt School and Herbert
Marcuse starting from the proposition that the western working class
had lost its revolutionary role and the integration of this class required
a revision of the theory of exploitation, and of strategy for liberation.
The struggles of the people in the Third World and the intensifica-
tion of the arms race between the superpowers, gave a new dimension
to movements of contestation, where anti-nuclear and peace cam-
paigns attained considerable visibility. In the 1970s, the possibility of
unlimited 'consumerism' was challenged and a new theme of 'ecol-
ogy' and the planet's limited resources emerged (Hirsch, 1976). A
much wider acceptance of resource issues as central economic and
political concerns was gradually visible.
Emergence of environmental problems of resource depletion, pol-
lution, acid rain, the hole in the thinning ozone layer, nuclear waste,
destruction of tropical rainforests, land salination, famines, loss of biodi-
versity — have raised serious questions about the 'cost' of development

424 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
and progress, the direction of growth, the values and assumptions that
have dominated modern science and development theory. In this
context, it is necessary to understand the role of science and technology
in the environmental problematic. The social and ethical dimensions
of this relationship is critical.
Foucoult (1980) has linked power, knowledge and space, wherein
he argues that increasing power over space devalues and deadens it.
For example, space used to belong to nature, but when mapped by
explorers and cartographers; catalogued and inventoried by traders and
naturalists; coded by militarists and computer scientists, it is controlled
by an 'eye of power' and subjected to unlimited surveillance. There-
fore, what constitutes 'knowledge' for a society, how this knowledge
is used, how it affects the ways in which we shape our lives and what
are and ought to be the relations between theory and practice are
primary questions.
The embeddedness of any scientific inquiry in the assumptions and
values of society have to be recognised as they influence what ques-
tions are asked, the way they are posed and interpretations generated.
Science has always reinforced dominant values and concepts of reality.
Theoreticians of the Frankfurt School and Habermas (1971) connect
positivist science to the processes of rationalisation and control in
industrial society. They argued that the attitude of technical and
instrumental rationality, which is at the core of positivist social sci-
ences, serves the dominant group's interest in mastery and control.
Ideological frameworks within social sciences also become power
structures. Shifts in scientific paradigms have at stake, power over
society and nature, as they contest the very terms of reference, the
assumptions about humans, the natural environment and forms of
social organisations. Science is thus, both a social negotiation for
meaning, theory and paradigm and a political negotiation for power
over what realities are to be seen and what metaphors may be used to
describe them. Thus, ideas are translated into ethics and behaviours
that affect the environment.
Merchant (1989) expands Kuhn's (1962) concept of scientific
revolutions to 'ecological revolutions' by including the far reaching
changes in economy, society and thought related to transformations in
nature-society relations. She stresses that the rise of reductionist
mechanistic, quantitative consciousness is an ideological feature of the
capitalist ecological revolution, which gave way to a global ecological
revolution, which is altering our consciousness towards nature.

The Environmental Movement 425
In the 1980s, a sea-change occurred as 'Green' issues took centre
stage and environment evolved into a legitimate, high profile, enduring
issue. There was a radical reappraisal of concerns over resource
availability and use, the environmental consequences of resource
exploitation and the relationship between environment, poverty and
economic change. In the West, this period was marked by dramatic
increases in the membership levels, public interest and resources of
environmental groups. Distinct, however, from other periods, these
environmental concerns became institutionalised. Thus, from the local
through to the international level, the environmental agenda increas-
ingly gained considerable prominence with the power to affect per-
sonal, commercial and political decisions (Young, 1990). The UNCED
process, culminating in the Rio Conference in 1992, was perhaps the
high watermark in this process. The great challenge facing the world
is to cope with the impact of economic growth on environment
processes. This emphasis is reflected in the approach which has
become known as sustainable development.
Sustainable Development
This is a unifying approach to environment and economic develop-
ment which seeks to reconcile human needs and the carrying or coping
capacity of the environment in relation to the consequences of eco-
nomic systems. It consists of broad goals and the human institutions
responsible for managing the planet. The problems with this approach
are manifold and we are a long way from turning these goals into a
clear programme of attainable goals.
The World Commission on Environment and Development
(WCED), popularly known as the Brundtland Commission (after its
chair, Gro Brundtland of Norway) was created in 1984. The Commis-
sion initiated studies which culminated in the publication of 'Our
Common Future' (The Brundtland Report) in 1987. This report set the
direction of debate on all future discussions of sustainable develop-
ment which was defined as 'Development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their needs'. It called for policies which recognised the need for
economic growth in a way that did not jeopardise the position of
vulnerable people or deplete the future viability of the resources base.
This required an attitude to economic development in which quantity
as well as quality of growth are equally important.

426 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
The report is significant as it argued that poverty, resource depletion
and environmental stress arise from disparities in economic and politi-
cal power. The Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987) delineates the
following objectives of sustainable development policies.
• reviving economic growth;
• changing the quality of growth;
• meeting essential needs for jobs, food, energy, water and sanita-
• ensuring a sustainable level of population;
• conserving and enhancing the resource base;
• reorienting technology and managing risk and
• merging environment and economics in decision making proc-
The ambitious goals, it was recognised, will require different forms
of resource exploitation, investment patterns and decision-making
processes, technological development and institutional change. Fur-
ther, the report stated that it was futile to attempt to deal with environ-
mental problems without a broader perspective that encompassed the
factors underlying world poverty and international inequality. The
report thus set a broad agenda for change, but the mechanisms to
remove barriers that existed to achieving these goals were not ad-
The Environmental Movement
Social movements have complex roots and it is difficult to dissociate
one from the other. Bowman (1976) rightly argues that it was not a
single issue or sudden crisis that led to the formation and growth of the
environment movement.
The evolution of the environment movement indicates that it is
life-centred, and distinguished by a sense of moral imperative regard-
ing human behaviour in relation to other life-forms within the bio-
sphere. The movement identifies a complex effort of international
characters over a range of issues, and its participants cut across social
and economic classes. It is not an elitist movement in an excluding
sense, nor is it a mass movement comparable to those seeking eco-
nomic or political reforms (Morrison and Dunlap, 1986). It comprises
a diversity of organisations with common orientations but with varying
emphases and strategies. A thesis common to the movement is that the
undefined endless growth assumptions that dominate governmental
and economic policies are impossible to attain in the long run and are

The Environmental Movement 427
destructive in the short run. While all goals of the environmental
movement have not been clearly defined, the attainment of a sustain-
able economy of high environmental quality is a widely shared objec-
It is a social force attempting to shape the world's future, although
the movement contains several paradoxes and contradictions. There is
a wide spectrum of agreement-disagreement over the incidence, sig-
nificance, urgency and implications of an environmental crisis. Simi-
larly the writing about environment is handicapped by ambiguity of
terms as different people use words such as 'science', 'environment'
or 'environmental movements' to mean different things, depending on
their point of view. In fact, hostility to the environmental movement
is derived from self-serving interests of some industrial and develop-
ment-mission government scientists, who often cash in on these am-
biguities and differences in view points.
With this backdrop about the trajectory of development, the revo-
lutions in technology, a fundamental questioning of the role of science
in interpreting natural and social reality and the emergence of environ-
mental concerns on the international agenda, this paper attempts to
review the status of the environmental movement in India. The next
section discusses the ideologies embedded in the actions of various
organisations, which have had a considerable impact, not only at local
levels but also at national and international levels. The effort is to
connect the ecological and social concerns of the groups to their
political convictions and actions to comprehend the nature of the
environmental movement on the Indian sub-continent. Finally the key
concerns in the environment movement and the debates between the
developed and the developing countries are briefly discussed.
Environmental Movement in India
Attempts at Classification
The environmental movement in India has essentially emerged as a
response to a wide spectrum of struggles and conflicts over the use of
natural resources and social justice issues or human rights. At one end
of the spectrum, the movement is around a specific issue, such as
deforestation or construction of a dam. At the other end, the focus is
on an alternative development paradigm. The varied nature of these
movements, their diverse methodologies and different ideological
orientations render the task of constructing an adequate taxonomy of

428 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
these movements difficult. To understand the nature of the environ-
mental movement in India, one attempt has been to analyse them in
terms of their material, political and ideological contexts (Gadgil and
Guha, 1994). According to this approach, the material basis of the
environmental movement is served by the conflicts over natural re-
sources. The political context of the movement relates to the involve-
ment of action groups in the collective mobilisation of people affected
by environmental degradation. The ideological expressions of the
movement are analysed by describing different ideological strands of
Indian environmentalism.
In another attempt, the nature and type of the environmental move-
ment in India have been analysed on the basis of the classification of
the struggles over the use and control of natural resources. In this
schema, the environmental movement in India is contextualised by
three types of struggles over natural resources. The first type of
struggle is related to the entitlement of different social groups to
environmental resources. Second, environmental action is directed
towards seeking a change in the official policy related to the pattern of
environmental resource use and, the third type of struggle raises
ecological issues of development, particularly the dimension of hu-
man-nature relationship and presents a critique of the dominant devel-
opment paradigm. All these struggles are clustered around various
natural resources that include land, water, forest and air (Sethi, 1993).
The typology of the environmental movement, based on natural
resource-based struggles, leaves out a number of activity-groups of the
environmental movement in India. For example, there are a host of
individual campaigns and advocacy groups engaged in lobbying for
policy change, conducting research and training on environmental
issues which are very much a part of the environmental movement.
Table 1 classifies the environmental movement into eight broad cate-
gories by issues and examples.
Nature and Types
The forest and land-based struggles have resulted from the large-scale
commercial use of forest materials and clearing of forest by the state
and the unequal access to land resources. The Chipko movement in the
Himalayas and the Appico movement in the Western Ghats are the
classic examples of the forest-based movement. Other forest-based
movements include the agitation against the replacement of sal trees
by teak species in the Jharkhand-Bastar belt in the country. Apart from

The Environmental Movement 429
drawing widespread public attention to the issue of the basic rights of
access of the forest dwellers to forest resources, the forest-based move-
ments also had their critical impact on the proposed Forest Bill of 1982
which was ultimately withdrawn from discussion in the Parliament.
Observing that the forest-based movements had their greatest spread,
involvement and impact on Indian environtnentalism, Sethi points out that
these struggles also led to a paradigmatic shift in the discourse on the
commodification of natural resources (Sethi, 1993:129):
This shift in discourse is best epitomised by the slogans that
the different struggles threw up. In Chipko the cry was ' what
do the forests bear? Soil, water and pure air!' as against the
dominant notion,' What do the forests bear? Profit on resin
and timber!' Similarly, the Jharkhand struggles highlighted
the differences between sal ( a tree species which gave the
forest communities leaves for fodder, nuts and fuelwood) and
sagwan (teak).
Categories of the Environmental Movement by
Issues and Examples
Some Examples
Forest and
• Right of access to
Chipko, Appico, Tribal
forest resources.
Movements all over the
• Non-commercial use
country, (for example,
of natural resources.
Jharkhand/ Bastar Belt)
• Prevention of land
• Social justice/human
Marine resources
• Ban on trawling,
National Fishennens'
and fisheries,
Forum working for
commercialisation of
traditional fisherfolk in
shrimp and prawn
Kerala; Chilika Bachao
Andolan, Orissa.
• Protection of marine
• Implementation of
coastal zone

430 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
Some Examples
Industrial pollution
• Stricter pollution
Zahirili Gas Morcha in
control measures,
Bhopal; Ganga Mukti
Andolan in Bihar;
• Prevention of reckless Movement against Harihar
expansion of industries Polyfibre factory in
without considering
Karnataka; Movement
design, locational
against pollution of Sone
factors and livelihood river by the Gwalior Rayon
issues of local
factory led by Vidushak
Karkhana Group in
Shahdol district, MP;
Movements against
poisoning of Cheliyar river
in Kerala by Kerala Shastra
Sahitya Parishad (KSSP).
a. Dams and
• Protection of tropical
Silent Valley Movement by
Irrigation projects
KSSP; Narmada Bachao
• Ecological balance.
Andolan; Movements
• Destructive
against the Tehri by Tehri
Bandh Virodhi Samiti; The
• Rehabilitation and
Koshi Gandhak Bodhghat
resettlement of the
and Bedthi, Bhopalpatnam
and Ichampalli in the West;
The Tungbhadra,
Malaprabha and
Ghatprabha Schemes in the
South; Koyna Project
affected Committee.
b. Power projects
• Ecological balance. . Jan Andolan in Dabhol
• Rehabilitation and
against Enron;
resettlement, high
Koel-Karo Jan Sanghatana
in Bihar;
c. Mining
• Depletion of natural
Anti-mine project in Doon
• Land degradation,
Anti-Bauxite mine
• Ecological imbalance. movement (Balco project)
in Orissa.
d. Industrial
• Realignment,
Protests and demands of
• Rehabilitation and
Konkan Railway
resettlement of the
Realignment Action
• Ecological balance.
Citizen's group against
Dupont Nylon 6.6, Goa

The Environmental Movement 431
Some Examples
Amravati Bachao Abhiyan
against a large chemical
e. Military bases
• Ecological balance.
Anti-missiles test range in
• Rehabilitation and
Baliapal and at Netrahat,
• Resettlement, and
• Displacement,
Ekjoot in Bhimashankar
Rehabilitation and
region of Maharashtra,
National parks
Resettlement, loss of
Shramik Mukti Andolan in
Sanjay Gandhi National
Park, Bombay
• Displacement, cultural Himachal Bachao Andolan.
changes, social ills.
Bailancho Saad, Goa.
• Policy inputs, Stricter
Society for Clean Cities.
measures for protected Bombay Natural History
Society (BNHS).
Citizen's Action
• Clear policy on national Centre for Science and
park and wild-life
Environment (CSE), Delhi.
sanctuaries, lobbying, Research, training and
research, training and documentation
documentation on wild organisations, such as
life, conservation
Bombay Environmental
Action Group, Save
Bombay Committee, Save
Pune Citizens' Committee,
Publications on
environmental problems.
• Intellectual support to
grassroots movements
on environmental issues
• International debates. • Ralegaon Siddhi (Anna
• Sustainable development, Hazare's village).
eco-friendly models of SOPECOMM.
Laurie Baker's Housing
• Low cost,
environmental-friendly People's Science Institute,
housing and technology. Dehradun.
The land-based struggles consist largely of localised agitations
against land degradation due to the indiscriminate use of organic
chemicals, mining and constructions (in urban areas). These move-
ments are not well documented enough to enable a detailed analysis.
The Manu Rakshana Koota (Save the Soil) movement in Karnataka is

432 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
a specific case of land-based movement launched against the Waste-
land Development Policy that empowers the state to convert common
village land into wasteland for social forestry purposes particularly for
eucalyptus plantations. Similar protest groups existed in Gujarat in the
early 1980s, which extensively debated the state social forestry pro-
The movement against the over exploitation of marine resources
generally refers to the traditional fisherfolk's movement against trawl-
ing in shallow waters, resulting in the decimation of young fish and
breeding and also depletion of marine resources on which the fisher-
folk depend on for their livelihood.
Surprisingly, the agitations against industrial pollution have also
been sporadic and localised and their substantive impact on Indian
environmentalism remains difficult to discern. The country's worst
industry-related disaster caused by the gas leak at Bhopal, killed about
25,000 people and left thousands injured and handicapped. However,
'the furious debate and action that Bhopal has given rise to has shaken,
as never before, the near blind faith that many had in the beneficial
impacts of modern industry, science and techno!ogy'(Sethi, 1993:
135). The anti-industrial pollution movement is largely concentrated
in urban areas. Examples of such movements include the Vidushak
Karkhana group in Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh and innumerable
litigations against industrial pollution.
Next to the forest-based movements, environmental activism
around development projects is yet another example of a broad-based
environmental movement with larger coverage and impact. The spe-
cific development projects against which sustained movements have
been launched by the environmentalists include dams, power projects,
industrial plants, railway projects and mining. The dam-related agita-
tions of local groups cover the entire geographical area of the country.
The Silent Valley movement in Kerala has been the harbinger in the
environmental uprisings against the large dams in the country. Unlike
the other anti-dam movements where displacement and rehabilitation
of the affected people have been the major issues, the Silent Valley
movement raised the fundamental issue of ecological balance. The
Silent Valley movement 'was unique because building a dam in this
uninhabited area would not involve displacement of people, and thus
was fought primarily on environmental grounds' (Sethi, 1993: 132).
The movement was launched to save the rare tracts of Indian tropical

The Environmental Movement 433
Movements against the multi-crore Narmada Valley Project cover-
ing Central and Western parts of India and against the Tehri dam in
the north are the more well-known and relatively recent examples of
anti-dam movements. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has not
only made an international impact, it has also led to the formation of
a national level campaign against large dams. The activities of the
NBA are not simply restricted to the question of rehabilitation of the
oustees; the movement has also raised fundamental questions about
the model of development, whose interests are served through such
projects and the accountability of the state and multilateral aid agencies
such as the World Bank towards human rights and environmental
issues in the host countries.
The other anti-dam movements include protests against Pong dam
in the north and the issues range from rehabilitation of the project
affected persons, land compensation, and the negative impact of the
project on the environment and local communities. The movements
against the dams and power projects are mostly localised agitations.
The agitations, however, would also qualify for a movement as most
of these issues are taken up by well organised groups.
As regards mining and quarrying, the long battle between the mine
owners and the local people over limestone extractions in Doon Valley
was fought in the Supreme Court of India. The Bharatiya Aluminum
Company (BALCO) Resistance Committee and Gandhmardan Protec-
tion Youth Council in Orissa are fighting against the BALCO's bauxite
mine project.
On the issue of military expansion and its consequences on the
environment, the movement against Missile Test Range in Baliapal
and the base at Netrahat area are known movements. The Konkan
Railway Realignment Action Committee and its protest organisation
agitating against the justification related to realignment of the Konkan
Railway Project also generated considerable debate.
In the area of aquaculture, the Chilka Bachao Andolan in Orissa and
other groups in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are fighting against
the growing commercialisation of shrimp and prawn cultivation. The
movement demands the restoration of the traditional methods of
shrimp and prawn culture.
The movement on wildlife issues has not yet gathered any signifi-
cant momentum in the Indian context. Ekjoot, an organisation in
Bhimashankar region in Maharashtra, has taken up the issue of dis-
placement due to declaration of certain areas as national parks or as

434 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
wild-life sanctuaries. Similarly, the issue of tourism and its environ-
mental consequences is also a relatively new issue of the environ-
mental movement in the country. The Himachal Bachao Andolan is
an example of recent environmental movement related to tourism in
India. Several groups in Goa are addressing the social and ecological
fallout of an uncontrolled tourist industry. Similarly, protests against
golf courses in the country, to attract foreign tourists, are increasing.
The Advocacy and Appropriate Technology categories play a dual
role in Indian environmentalism. At one level, they provide intellec-
tual, theoretical and demonstrative stimuli to the environmental move-
ment through their contributions to the discourse on development and
ecology and by demonstrating small eco-friendly models of develop-
ment in specific areas. At another level, they actively participate in
lobbying and judicial litigation on issues of concern. Some of them are
also active members of various environmental groups in India and
The typological profile of the various parts of the environmental
movement in India discussed above indicates that these movements
are largely localised, and issue-specific and restricted to relatively
small areas. The range of issues raised and acted upon in the environ-
mental movement in India varies from cost-benefit analysis of envi-
ronmental impact to a discourse on alternative development based on
distributive justice and human rights. The different ideological orien-
tations, methodologies and a wide variety of actors involved in the
environmental movement indicates the amorphous nature of the move-
ment. The next section attempts to elaborate on the ideological underpin-
nings of the movement.
Ideologies of the Environmental Movement in India
What is Ideology?
It is beyond the scope of this paper to get into a discourse on the various
conceptual problems related to the definition of ideology. The follow-
ing definition would suffice for the present purpose. An ideology is 'a
system of ideas which gives legitimacy to an existing or proposed
system of relationships, and correspondingly supports an action pro-
gramme to sustain or subvert the prevailing system' (Gore, 1993:
Ideology constitutes an important element of a social movement. A
social movement is generally described as a recurrent pattern of a

The Environmental Movement 435
collective attempt to bring about or resist social change in social
institutions, value systems and social relationships. Ideologies provide
inspiration as well as legitimacy to a social movement. They also
provide explanations and indicate a value framework of a social
movement. Ideologies are action-driven. 'The action element related
to an ideology is what we call a social movement' (Gore, 1993: 46).
An ideology can also be a product of a social movement and this
usually happens through the crystallisation of ideas during the course
of a social movement.
The definitions of ideology and social movement suggest that both
contain change-resisting or change-promoting elements. What, how-
ever, is problematic is the direction of change-resistance or change-
promotion within a movement. It is suggested that a movement that is
clearly directed towards the alteration of a structure of a system or
against the threat to an alteration of a system is a social movement. A
movement that aims at intra-systemic changes is thus considered a
quasi movement and not a social movement proper (Mukherji, 1978).
As a corollary to this, an ideology that is not aimed at any transforma-
tive change in the system may not be fully comprehended as an
Ideologies of the Environmental Movement
Ideologies of Indian environmentalism are essentially characterised by
free-floating eclectic brands of multifarious, often conflicting groups.
The crusading Gandhians, the Marxists, the proponents of appropriate
technology (Guha, 1988), the ideology of conservation and the per-
spective of indigenous ecological management (Baviskar, 1995) and,
eco-feminism (Mies and Shiva, 1993), are the known ideologies of the
environmental movement in India.
The ideologies are apparently distinct but sometimes overlap. A
particular environmental organisation/group may follow more than
one ideology. Similarly, a particular ideology may inspire many envi-
ronmental movements at the same time. In the Chipko movement, the
oldest environmental protest movement in India, the Gandhian ideol-
ogy of pre-modern village-based self-sufficiency of people champi-
oned by Sunderlal Bahuguna has combined with Chandi Prasad
Bhatt's constructive ideology based on appropriate use of technology.
During some phases of the movement, the Uttarakhand Sangh Vahini
opted for a Marxist interpretation of history and followed a Marxist
strategy of achieving its goal of environmental movement. The course

436 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
of the Narmada movement also seems to have been charted out through
a Marxist value framework that has questioned the monstrosity of large
dams as a product of capitalist development and has also included the
Gandhian perspective of decentralisation and non-violent action (Bav-
iskar, 1995).
The presence of different ideological positions within an environ-
mental movement suggests that ideologies are often used more as
strategies than as ideologies per se. Ideologies being embedded in
strategies is not unusual because one of the functions of an ideology
is to specify strategies or means to attain it. The problem arises when
a movement follows one particular ideology or goal but adopts another
ideology merely as a strategy. A movement based on the Gandhian
ideology is likely to suffer from many organisational incongruities if
it follows Marxist strategies to achieve its objective. What is possible
is that at different points of time and phases, a movement may adopt
different ideologies or shift completely to a new ideology. The differ-
ences in the leadership of a movement may also give rise to different
ideologies within a movement. Various ideological strands within the
Chipko movement clearly bring out such differences.
Although the characterisation of an ideology as transformative or
radical, constructive or reformist and so on depends upon the value
judgement of the observer, the general observation about the environ-
mental movement is that it is largely guided by a reformist ideology.
As Bharadwaj (1992) points out:
The overriding emphasis of the environmental movement has
been reformist. Concern with conservation and efficiency in
resource and energy use, rather than with reallocating the
production surplus among social classes, has dominated its
agenda. Thus, the radical challenge to the dominant high-
technology 'treadmill of production,' and the 'softening' of
the resource perspective of environmentalism by the emer-
gence of equity concerns surrounding the new 'appropriate
technology' and 'deep ecology' movements have remained
largely rhetorical, even as the focus on efficient resource use
in production has made common cause between their mem-
bership and elite interests.
The observation applies both to Gandhian as well as to the ideology
of appropriate technology. Gandhi's Utopia for simple living and
village economy, which is interwoven with his moral belief in human-
nature symbiosis, reflects his concern for an ecologically sustainable

The Environmental Movement 437
society. The gospel of non-violence and decentralised self-governance
at various levels are some other elements in Gandhian ideology that
find prominence in the mainstream environmental movement in India.
Interestingly, Gandhi's ideology of trusteeship demanding that the rich
should be the trustees of the poor in the justice delivery and so on has
somehow remained de-linked from the Gandhian ideology of the
environmental movement.
The ideology of appropriate technology raises the agriculture-
industry linkage and attributes environmental problems to the mis-
match between these two sectors in terms of size and level of their
operations. According to this ideology it is not modern technology per
se, but the appropriateness and sustainability of such technology in
specific contexts that needs to be examined. The ideology includes an
element of 'constructive' philosophy of Gandhi but unlike Gandhi, the
appropriate technologists emphasise the synthesis between the tradi-
tional and modern technology in order to make technology socially
viable. Ecological Marxism addresses environmental issues from a
Marxist perspective, in which environmental concerns are located in the
economic sphere. In this ideology, 'systemic economic change is viewed
as logically prior to ecological stability and political action towards that
end becomes an overriding priority' (Guha, 1988: 2580).
The issue of preservation aimed at protection of biodiversity has
been the ideological force behind the movement towards the preser-
vation of Silent Valley and other conservation efforts that have led to
the creation of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the country.
The ideology of indigenous communities is derived from the view that
the culture and the belief systems of these communities (the adivasis
or the original dwellers) provides an alternative ecological wisdom
(Baviskar, 1995).
The above mentioned articulations are the major ideological streams
in Indian environmentalism. A few more ideologies have given birth to
the environmental movement elsewhere in the world particularly, in
Europe. The Green ideology, eco-feminism, eco-socialism and deep
ecology are the four prominent ideologies that inspired the environ-
mental movement in Europe and other parts in the West. Although
these ideologies are yet to become a driving force in Indian environ-
mental activism, they have the potential to influence the future envi-
ronmental movement in India. Some similarities between some of
these ideologies and Indian environmentalism are already in exist-
ence. For example, ecological Marxism has some resemblance to

438 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
eco-socialism, though the latter uses Marxist principles to address eco-
logical issues from a different perspective. Eco-socialism is anthropocen-
tric with a humanist bias. It aims at securing 'the material welfare of all
humanity, through the growth of productive forces via the domination of
nature. But it rejects modern industrialisation (capitalism or East European
brand of socialism) which masters nature by transforming it to the detriment,
in the broadest senses, of humans' (Pepper,1993: 232).
Similarly, the Green agenda has its influence on the Indian environ-
mental movement that upholds low intensity and sustainable use of
nature and enhances the regenerative potentials of nature for subsis-
tence (Baviskar, 1995).These similarities in agenda notwithstanding,
the Green movement in Europe has attempted to provide an alternative
political culture by forming a Green Party and actively participating
in party politics (Sarkar, 1994).
The ideology of eco-feminism refers to the ideas and belief that
women's affinity with nature and their responsibility for the mainte-
nance of everyday life make the environmental concerns predomi-
nantly feminist concerns. This feminist perspective on environmental
issues presents a critique of man's control and manipulation of the
natural world. The ideology originally developed in the context of
women's involvement in environmental movements in the West but
has gained popularity in other parts of the globe including India. However,
many scholars expressing doubt about its ideological profoundity, have
pointed out that the ideology of eco-feminism has mystified the role
of women in environmental issues. Specifically, it has been argued that
the women's role in the environmental movement (such as in the
Chipko movement) is often exaggerated and is given legitimacy by an
eco-feminist perspective while in fact these movements have actually
been led by men (Joekes, Heyzer, Oniang'o and Salles, 1994: 138).
The ideology of deep ecology challenges the assumption that humans
are at the centre of concern. It treats human beings as one among and equal
to other species and emphasises the intrinsic (and not instrumental) value
of nature. It raises several ethical questions about human action/activity
and its implications for ecology. Some elements of deep ecology can be
traced in the ideological positions of various Indian environmentalists in
their perceptions about human-nature relationships.
Teleological Commonality?
Within the environmental movement, the ideological differences and
cross-currents are bound to result in confusion and conflicts. However,

The Environmental Movement 439
the ideological differences produce conflicting situations in the choice
of methodologies and identification of the social actors of the environ-
mental movement. In so far as the goals of environmental movement
are concerned, there appears a seemingly common-by-purpose but
different-by-strategies sort of a situation.
The common element in the varied nature of the Indian environ-
mental movement is the general concept of 'environmentalism' itself
that includes ideologies and practices which inform and flow from a
concern wiih the environment (Pepper, 1989: 13). At a more concrete
level, the concern of the Indian environmental movement is expressed
in terms of an alternative vision of development. The issues of moral
economy versus market economy and the vested versus public interest
in the use of natural resources have provided the necessary stimuli for
the moral and intellectual justification for an alternative development
paradigm as the major objective of the environmental movement in
India. To quote Shiva (1991:47-48):
Environmental movements that emerge as a protest against
the violation of public interest groups must therefore not
merely indicate the social and environmental consequences
of narrow profit maximisation. A deep and sustained resolu-
tion of such conflicts in favour of the larger public interest
must be based on the emergence of a different approach to
nature in the creation of a public interest science.
According to Shiva (1991: 48), 'the partisan view of nature manifests
itself in the form of a reductionist paradigm that reduces nature into its
constituent parts and leads to the human transformation of nature' that
results in the production of exchange value without crying for life-support
systems and survival. She attributes the distinction between the parti-
san reductionist materialism and public interest ecological perspective
to the difference between mechanical materialism and dialectical
materialism of Marx. It is difficult to consider Shiva's position as truly
Marxist as she suggests a resolution of conflicts between these two
brands of materialism in favour of public interest. In genuine Marxist
perspectives, conflicts in such instances are not resolved but 'burst
Old Ideologies, New Forms of Expression?
Environmental consciousness and its social expressions through vari-
ous protests, form part of what has come to be known as 'new social
movements'. The major ideological strands (particularly, the

440 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
Gandhian and Marxist ones) of the environmental movement in India
discussed earlier are, however, neither new, nor are they exclusively
meant for the environmental movement. Is the environmental move-
ment then a new social expression rooted in old ideologies? An
appropriate answer to the question is difficult without empirical inves-
tigation. One of the significant factors that distinguishes the newly
emerging environmental groups and their activities from the older
movements (for example, Freedom Movement, Trade Union and
Peasant Movements) relates to the growth of development-oriented
action groups, popularly known as non-governmental organisations
(NGOs). Most environmental movements in the country are now
spearheaded by these groups and thus constitute the 'actors' of these
movements. The nature of these groups is varied and disparate with
numerous ideological shades. Yet they share one common platform,
the non-party political platform. Politically conscious of their move-
ments, these groups operate outside the sphere of party politics.
There are both mass-based high profile as well as small commu-
nity-based grassroots environmental NGOs. Conscientisation, educa-
tion, mobilisation and public interest litigation on environmental
issues are the major objectives of these NGOs. While there has not yet
been an NGO ideology, so to say, the rise and development of this
sector and its influence on the social and political life in India has
undoubtedly added new meaning to the social and political organisa-
tions in the country. .
In his analysis of the sociological relevance of various action groups
in India (in which environmental NGOs occupy a crucial position),
Dhanagare (1993) has drawn our attention to the social composition
of these groups and their perceptions about the contradictions in
contemporary civil society and the state. According to Dhanagare
(1993: 166-167), most actors in the NGO sector in India are repre-
sented by the middle class professionals and intellectuals whose 'dis-
enchantment and disillusionment with institutional structures of the
state and civil society are almost always highlighted as the reason for
middle class urban educated youth and intelligentsia getting drawn into
the non-party political formations and processes'. Dhanagare further
adds that contemporary action groups are very varied and defy any
classification. Broadly, there could be the radical, the functionalist and
the orthodox Marxist groups. The radical group would attempt to
weaken the authority of the state through the empowerment of people
for social transformation; the functionalist group would follow a

The Environmental Movement 441
consensus approach towards non-class contradictions; and the ortho-
dox Marxists would place ideology in the economic sphere or consider
it as a function of class position of the subjects. In Dhanagare's opinion
the functionalist and the orthodox Marxist approaches cannot possibly
escape criticisms on their viability. The functionalist position does not
necessarily provide a critical view of the state and civil society while
the orthodox Marxist approach would likely to reduce everything to
class analysis.
There is another set of actors involved in communication and
advocacy related to the environmental movement within the voluntary
sector. This group comprises media persons, professionals, scientists,
academics and so on. The strategies of the group for environmental
actions includes lobbying through government, press and politicians
and, litigation in the courts of law.
As a result of all these, the picture of ideological unity among
various action groups remains hazy. On this problem Dhanagare
(1993) suggests that Gramsci's view of ideology and political action
in which hegemony transcends class phenomenon and also Laclau's
theoretical framework to study populism in the context of contempo-
rary social movements bear special significance for an analysis of the
ideologies of action groups. For our purpose, the same applies to
environmental action groups as well.
The Counter Ideology
The ideology of capitalism with its environmental consequences ap-
pears to be the main adversary or counter ideology of the existing
environmental movement in India. Environmental damage may be one
of the many negative fall outs of capitalism. The phenomena of
poverty, hunger, unemployment and a host of other problems of human
existence may also be imputed to a capitalist process of development.
Modern capitalism and its intricate national and international network
has penetrated into almost all spheres of human life. Can the environ-
mental movement attack all these when its entry point is environment?
The issue-based sporadic nature of the environmental movement does
not indicate such a possibility. Identification of capitalist ideology as
an adversary in an environmental movement would at best be a Utopian
and at worst, a contradictory attempt. The counter ideology of envi-
ronmentalists thus needs a redefinition. What they are protesting
against is not capitalism but eco-capitalism or a capitalist ecology.

442 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
Another weakness of environmental movements relates to the ade-
quacy of scientific knowledge about ecology and uncertainties about
responses of nature. As Sethi (1993:145) observes, 'In an arena like
ecology where so-called scientific knowledge, particularly for tropical
and semi-tropical climes, is very inadequate, even the debate between
ostensible experts is plagued with a high degree of uncertainty about
the validity of different positions.'
Furthermore, even as the experts are certain on particular issues
there is no guarantee that the issues will be easily comprehensible to
the actual 'victims' on the ground. Thus, 'the issues are not only less
understood, but also they often generate only scattered protest and
adjustment-based resistance, and primarily attract voluntary and non-
party groups and movements. Such a mix rarely adds up to a potent
combination of radical and paradigmatic change'(Sethi, 1993). On
balance, one can conclude that the ideologies of the environmental
movement in India are still in the making. The action elements of the
ideologies are largely issue-based and are not yet clearly directed
towards systemic change.
The Global Issues
Prior to multinational technology and culture, there existed enormous
cultural diversity, which, in fact, was a direct result of the world's
biodiversity. The modernisation process has reduced diversity and is
transforming nature into high-yielding monocultures (Agarwal, 1994).
This process is essentially a product of power relations between
nations and economic interests. The polarisation between the North
and South on environmental issues, therefore, needs to be examined.
It is now known that 25 per cent of the world's population consumes
85 per cent of its wealth and produces 90 per cent of its waste. If the
rich reduce their wasteful consumption by 25 per cent, worldwide
pollution will be reduced by 25 per cent, while if the poor 75 per cent
reduced consumption totally and disappeared from the earth, the
reduction in pollution would be only 10 per cent. Similarly, within the
United States, 6 per cent of the world's population consumes over half
of the world's non-renewable resources and over a third of all raw
materials produced.
It is often argued, therefore, that the real threat to environment
comes, not from the poor but from the affluent mega-consumers and
mega-polluters who occupy more space, consume more of natural
resources, disturb the ecology more and directly and indirectly pollute

The Environmental Movement 443
the environment with ever-increasing amounts of thermal, chemical
and radioactive wastes.
Developing countries are more concerned about issues such as soil
erosion, land salinity, desertification, water pollution, urban air pollu-
tion and deforestation. Combined with rapid population growth, the
number of those living in extreme poverty is increasing. Poverty lies
at the heart of a number of processes producing detrimental environ-
mental changes. Many of the fragile eco-systems in the developing
countries (wetlands, arid lands, marine lands) have deteriorated due to
the way in which capitalist market economy has affected peasant
economies and societies.
Environment problems are thus created by both affluence and
poverty. In the North, the high and unsustainable levels of production
and consumption cause considerable pollution and damage to the
environment. The developing nations have little power to alter this and
the implementation of measures to reduce global pollution depends on
'enlightened self-interest' on the part of wealthy nations.
The poor lack the ability to act in ways which would maintain or
improve the environment as they often lack the resources of time,
equipment and money. They are forced to trade off long-term sustain-
ability against short-term survival. According to Blaikie (1985), envi-
ronmental degradation is often simultaneously, a result of
underdevelopment, a symptom of underdevelopment and a cause of
underdevelopment. In fact, the concept of sustainability is seen by
many as an attack by developed countries on the sovereign rights of
developing countries and often viewed with suspicion as a new form
of 'environmental imperialism'.
It has been convincingly argued that the interests of the developed
world are also reflected in the environmental problems of the devel-
oping world because developing countries not only provide raw ma-
terial for its own industries but also for the industries of the West. For
example, the Japanese and Western timber industries have been the
largest source of forest destruction in Southeast Asia. Having turned
countries like Thailand from net exporters into net importers of wood,
Japanese companies are now turning to the last great wooded frontier
of the world: the Amazon basin of South America (Agarwal, 1994).
Similarly, large-scale cattle ranching in Central and South America
has destroyed forests since 1960s.
Given the nature of development and international trade, the devel-
oped countries are buying resources and the Southern nations have few

444 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
alternatives but to supply them, often on terms that are economically
and environmentally unfavourable (for example the debt crisis, cash
crops for export, use of fertilisers, pesticides, and related soil erosion).
This conflict of interest and mutual interdependence creates a vicious
circle. As a result, the central dilemma of sustainable development is:
what is the best way to confront and overcome the powerful vested
interests that would feel threatened by structural changes in the status
quo ?

Countries in the South argue that industrialised nations have an
obligation to help those in the developing world as they have benefited
greatly and continue to benefit through transfer of resources from
developing world. They have improved their standard of living not
only by consuming their own resource bases (which they now seek to
conserve), but also by importing a proportion of the resource base of
the developing world. They must, therefore, now provide funds and
expertise for developing nations to improve their well-being and invest
its technology that would increase production, energy use and effi-
ciency with minimum environment damage. Further, it is felt that the
North must persuade their own populations to accept a change in their
lifestyles and consumption patterns.
Countries in the North, on the other hand, insist that developing
nations must check their rising population and reduce poverty which
causes social and economic pressures and consequent environmental
degradation. These debates raise two clear questions: one, who decides
what is an environmental problem, which in itself is often disputed and
two, how can the competing interests of different groups in society be
balanced when selecting and implementing policies to deal with these
problems. Therefore, even when there is unanimity about the causes
of environmental degradation, it can be very difficult to identify
solutions that nations are willing to implement.
Environmental problems affect a range of groups with different
interests, all of whom argue for different policies. The groups could
be differentiated by location (urban-rural or North-South), by income
and class or consumption patterns within these locations and also by
gender. Since some groups have greater political and economic influ-
ence than others, the definition of an environmental problem and
policies adopted to deal with them are circumscribed by these power
relations within and between countries. In India, for instance, the
debates on GATT, the impact of the structural adjustment programme
and patenting of herbs, plants and trees — all fall within the purview

The Environmental Movement 445
of dictatorial policies which cannot be divorced from the environ-
mental concerns.
The creation of a cooperative relationship between the developed
and developing world in political and economic spheres, and the
reduction of dominance of the developed over the developing nations
are very critical, if environmental problems are to be solved. If damage
to the environment is to be reduced, there is a need to develop
mechanisms whereby values other than those of pursuing narrowly
defined economic growth and profit can effectively govern decision-
making with the influential agents of the world economy. This consti-
tutes is a major political challenge.
The environmental demands on developing countries leave them
three key choices: persist with development irrespective of environ-
mental problems, minimise ecological imbalances at the expense of
development, or create integrated development environment policies.
The global rhetoric favours the last, but conventions and protocols
have concentrated on the broader problems of the environment such
as global warning, depletion of ozone layer and biodiversity, points
out Roy (1996). Some examples of these conventions are the 1985
'Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer for Research,
Monitoring and Information Exchange', signed by 20 countries, and
the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone
Layer, later amended in 1990.
The Global Environment Facility, established in 1990, attempts to
bring about collaboration on financing global environmental problems
between the World Bank, UNDP, and the UNEP. The UN, especially
the UNEP has been one of the principal organisations stressing envi-
ronment concerns within context of development. The pressure of
international NGOs like Greenpeace International, their criticism
about the negative impact of World Bank policies and projects, which
often run contrary to environmental values, has compelled the largest
multilateral aid agency to help countries improve their environmental
management. Financial resources for environmental investments, sup-
port for national and regional environmental planning exercises and
deepening and disseminating knowledge about environmentally sus-
tainable development are now legitimised activities within the World
Bank. The Bank's environmental personnel has risen from five in the
mid-1980s to about 200 in recent years which reflects the significance
attached to the environment issue. The substantive impact of these
changes continues to be critiqued and their implications for poverty,

446 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
development and environment remain questionable especially for
developing countries. The Rio Earth Summit debated many these of
concerns and resulted in five agreements: The Frame Convention on
Climatic Change; the Convention on Biological Diversity; Agenda 21;
The Rio Declaration; and Forest Principles. While the goals of the Rio
Summit marked a turning point in international thinking, the develop-
ing countries were disappointed as 'basically the Rio texts reflected an
implicit acceptance of sustainability based on conventional economic
development within an open international economy' (Roy, 1996). The
developed countries were unwilling to give up their privileges while
the South was trying to use the 'Green' card to force through economic
concessions. The tension between the North and the South continues
on these issues.
The environmental movement has visibly enlarged, refined and extended
our understanding of environment issues and their significance. Robert
Nisbet (1982), says that when the history of the twentieth century is finally
written, the single most important social movement of the period will be
judged to be environmentalism. It is no longer possible to treat ecology
and international political economy as separate spheres.
One of the fundamental contributions of the environmental movement
has been to demonstrate the ultimate unity of the subject matter of science.
No other area of human concern has drawn a greater diversity of scientific
disciplines into the service of a developing field of policy, nor offered
greater occasion for development of inter-disciplinary collaboration.
Sustainable development has become a global issue both because
of the high levels of ecological interdependence that exist within many
parts of the global economy and because it raises fundamental ques-
tions concerning the distribution of wealth, power and resources
between the North and South.
The striking dichotomy between the seamless web of ecological
interdependence on the one hand and the fragmentation of the interna-
tional political system on the other, makes finding and implementing
'solutions' to environmental problems a formidable enterprise. It will
require a diversity of actions and a political will. There are, today,
serious disagreements over the ultimate goals of society and, therefore,
over what constitutes an environmental problem and solution and how
far the solutions should radically reform or adapt to current circum-

The Environmental Movement 447
The centra] challenge facing us, is how can a fragmental and
conflictual political system, made up of over 170 sovereign states and
numerous other social, economic and religious actors, achieve high
and historically unprecedented levels of cooperation and policy co-or-
dination needed to address environment problems on a global scale?
The key questions in this regard are:
1. What kind of development is consistent with what kind of
environment, and how can science clarify the options?
2. How can science advance human welfare in ways compatible
with the integrity, diversity, and continuity of the biosphere?
3. What beliefs must be abandoned, which values revised, and
which institutions changed for human-earth relationships to be
sustainable at high levels of economic and environmental qual-
4. What new attitudes and behaviours must people and their
governments be persuaded to adopt that will sustain a world of
high economic and environmental quality?
5. What strategies may be necessary to achieve a human society
that will enlarge rather than diminish future options and the
quality of life on earth?
The major problem of reconciling environment and development is
not just technical, but fundamentally political and ideological also.
The ideologies of environmental movements are apparently dis-
tinct, but sometimes overlap. Many organisations are not exclusively
environment-oriented, which raises the question, 'Is the environmental
movement in India the new social expressions rooted in old ideologies?
It is also evident that ideologies within the environmental movement
are still in the making and the demand for change is sporadic and
issue-based and have not yet crystallised into a major political force at
a national level. It is equally important to address the questions — who
decides what is an environmental problem and how can the competing
interests of different groups across the nations and also within the
nation boundaries be balanced when selecting and implementing poli-
cies to deal with these problems.
1. Ecology: The science of the intricate web of relationships between living organ-
isms and non-living surroundings.

448 J. Andharia and C. Sengupta
Ecosystems: These interdependent living and non-living surroundings make up
eco-systems: for example, forests, lakes, estuaries.
Biosphere: The earth, its surrounding envelope of life and all its living things
comprise the biosphere.
Environment: Of humans includes not only the biosphere, but also the interaction
of humans with their natural and human-made surroundings.
Environmentalism: Definitions reveal two meanings:
• the sense of environmental determinism often used in anthropological litera-
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• the ideologies and practices which inform and flow from a concern with the
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