Appiko movement, Western Ghats, India


During the 50s, after proclaiming Independence, the Indian government launched so called "development plans" in the Western Ghats of Karnataka state. This area had been declared in fact "backward" and major industries were set up in order to promote exploitation of natural resources. Forests turned to be sources of timber and eucalyptus and teak plantations, while many villages were being displaced by the construction of hydropower plants. The Supa dam, for example, was built over the river Kali in 1976. Large tracts of forests were submerged in the reservoir and many communities displaced.

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Basic Data
NameAppiko movement, Western Ghats, India
SiteUttara Kannada and Shimoga districts
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesLand
Teak plantations
Project Details and Actors
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population500 (160 movilized in the first moment, of all castes)
Start Date09/1983
End Date12/1983
Relevant government actorsForest Department (Government of India)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAppiko Chaluvali (since the '50), Save Western Ghats Movement (today)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Street protest/marches
Activists embraced the trees to be felled by contractors of the forest department.
They extracted an oath from the loggers (on the local forest deity) to the effect that they woul respect the local deity
They used slide shows in the villages to mobilize people.
Foot marches in the interior forests, folk dances, street plays.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseFostering a culture of peace
Project cancelled
Development of Alternatives- Afforestation on denuded lands by growing saplings in village nurseries: villagers initiated a process of regeneration in barren common land.

- Introduction of alternative energy sources to reduce the pressure on the forest: the activists constructed 2,000 fuel-efficient chulhas ("hearths") in the area, which save fuelwood consumption by almost 40%. Another way to reduce pressure on the forest is through building gobar (dung gas plants). "However, the Appiko activists are more interested in those people who are from poorer sections - who cannot afford gas plants - so they emphasize chulhas" (Wikipedia).

- Awareness rising.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Impoverished sectors and also Brahmin farmers protested to protect their livelihood and commercial production drawn from forests, and were able to stop the progression of tree plantations.
Sources and Materials

Shiva, V., 1989. Staying alive: women, ecology and development. London: Zed Books.

Interview by S.Pinto, "Environment, forests not a priority for youth: Appiko movement founder", in Sept. 2013
[click to view]

Manisha Rao, article 2012 in Journal of Social and Economic Development
[click to view]

Gadgil, M., and R. Guha, 1992. This fissured land: an ecological history of India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Gadgil, M., and R. Guha, 1995. Ecology and Equity


Wikipedia entry on the Appiko movement
[click to view]

(1) Western Ghats manifesto seeks public hearings on Gadgil, Kasturirangan reports to avoid politicization
[click to view]

Other CommentsAs described by Manisha Rao (2012) : "In the summer of 1983, when the local villagers went to the Ammana Kadu or the Goddess Forest to worship the forest deity and share food, they were shocked to see the devastation of the forests. The local plywood factory had been given permission by the Forest Department to fell trees and the forests had been converted into a barren landscape. The streams and rivers on which the locals depended for irrigating their spice gardens were drying up. The villagers got together and decided to write to the Forest Department and other government officials concerned in protest. The Forest Department refused to entertain their petition. However, realizing the belligerent mood of the locals the Forest Department started felling operations in the remote Kelase forests in early September of the same year. Some agricultural labourers noticed the felling operations and immediately informed the Yuvak Mandalis (youth clubs) of Salkhani and Gubbigadde villages. The Yuvak Mandalis lost no time in sending messengers to other villages and mobilizing the villagers. On September 8, 1983, all the villagers gathered at Salkhani and marched into the forests in the pouring rain marking the beginning of the Appiko chaluvali. They protested the felling by hugging the trees and not allowing the woodcutters to cut them. The Appiko chaluvali played an important role in saving the forests of the Western Ghats."
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ContributorJ.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014