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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
Name of conflict:Appiko movement, Western Ghats, India
State or province:Karnataka
Location of conflict:Uttara 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
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Teak plantations
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:500 (160 movilized in the first moment, of all castes)
Start of the conflict:09/1983
End of the conflict:12/1983
Relevant government actors:Forest Department (Government of India)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Appiko Chaluvali (since the '50), Save Western Ghats Movement (today)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic 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.
Impacts of the project
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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Fostering 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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 comments:As 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."
Meta information
Contributor:J.-F. Gerber
Last update03/05/2014
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