Published by: Ojaswi Gupta
‘Appiko’ in Kannada’s local language means ‘hugging or embracing’. The Appiko movement started in Uttara Kannada in the districts of the Western Ghats of India. It is more or less alike to the renowned Chipko movement of Uttarakhand. After getting influenced by the people of the northern region, the people from the southern part started this too. The main aim of this movement is to save the flora of the country. It was committed to balance the eco-friendly nature of the forests and sustain the indigenous plants.
It was the year 1983 and the destruction of trees was at its peak. The valleys of Uttara Kannada were facing immense struggle by the man exploiting Mother Nature. The movement was started by a group of Yuvak Mandali after getting basic apprehension that in several areas there was excessive felling of trees going on. In a small area of 1 hectare, there was a decision to cut around 11 trees as soon as possible. The policies adopted were not sustainable which ensured the ill effects on the forest. On the other hand, the Chipko movement was a full-on mission in the valleys of the Himalayas. The leaders to make the people aware of the movement entered Kannada and explained their mission to the citizens there. Taking inspiration from their talks, their anger took shape of the ‘Appiko Movement’. The only difference between the two movements is that the Chipko was to preserve trees in the Himalayan range whereas the Appiko was to protect forests against the felling of livelihood in Karnataka.
According to Manisha Rao, who had written a few articles on the movement, there was an immediate influence with the Chipko movement of 1973. Surrounding the dilemma, the Forest Department had given clear instructions to fell 40 hectares of natural forest. This decision had an adverse effect, as the immense clearance led to severe soil erosion and drying up of perennial resources. The people surrounding the area were very conscious and organized a meeting, where they wrote a memorandum to higher authorities to cancel the decision. The news of severe deforestation reached the members of Gubbigadde village, the closest village to the Kalase forest where the cutting was to happen. In September of 1973, 160 people including all men, women, and children started to walk around 8km towards the Kalase forest to obstruct the cutting. They were utterly inspired by Gandhiji’s principle of non-violence and the success of the Chipko movement. They physically hugged and embraced the trees and placed their bodies in front of the people. They were following the saying, ‘to cut the trees, they would have to kill all of them and then reach the trees.’ The laborers got infuriated and tried to work out the problem. But for many weeks, villagers including men and women trekked and hugged the trees. After many tries, the laborers accepted defeat and went off the site to never come again. On 14th October, merely 38 days later, the Forest Department withdrew its orders and the trees were safe.
However, the people of Gubbigadde village wanted a statutory order from the government to stop all the cutting down of trees in the state. So, in order to give awareness, they rallied through the roads with sign-boards showing ill effects of tree-felling. After some time, many people joined them to save their beloved Mother Nature and the Appiko movement carried its way to a huge movement where people from different parts of the state went to hug and embrace the trees, to save them. In 1985, the government passed an order to stop all the mono-cropping operations i.e. the agricultural practice of growing only one crop year after year. In 1987, plywood factories came to a halt. The villagers continued their fight against their forests and wrote numerous letters to the government to change this policy.
Finally, in 1990 the good news came to the people. The government put a full ban on the felling of trees across the entire state. The Appiko movement members then made efforts to educate the youth about the importance of a natural forest and after that innumerable environmental movements have come up, from different parts of India to save our forests. Conclusion: The Appiko movement created awareness among the villagers to change the policies of the government regarding the banning the felling of green trees. Its major objective was kind of three-fold. To take good care of the existing forests, to afforest the barren lands, and to utilize the resources which the forest gives us carefully. This movement shows how if everyone in a state come together as one group, we can bring about a great change in the mindsets of society. This phase was more or less productive in nature and showed how depleted resources can be rebuilt. It bought about a dulcet relationship between humans and Mother Nature. It redefined the term ecological balance along with development in sustainability.