Rishikesh: Sunderlal Bahuguna, the pioneer of the Chipko movement died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on Friday after battling COVID-19 for several days. He was 94. He breathed his last at 12.05 pm, AIIMS Director Ravikant said.
Bahuguna, one of India's best-known environmentalists, was admitted to the hospital on May 8 after testing positive for Covid. He had been critical since last night with his oxygen level dropping drastically.
He was on CPAP therapy in the ICU of the premier hospital.
Condoling the death, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat described it as a big loss not just for Uttarakhand and India but for the entire world.
"It was he who made the Chipko movement a movement of the masses," Rawat said
The void created by his passing away in the field of environment conservation can never be filled, the chief minister said.
He prayed for peace to the departed soul and strength to the bereaved family to bear the loss.
He is survived by his wife Vimla, two sons and a daughter.
Born on January 9 in Tehri district, Bahuguna is considered the pioneer of the Chipko movement of the 1970s which he had launched along with dedicated environment conservationists like Gaura Devi to save forests.
Conferred with the Padmavibhushan and many other honours for his pioneering work in the field of environment protection, Bahuguna also led the protests against the construction of the Tehri dam.
He had observed an 84-day fast and got his head tonsured in protest against the project which displaced a huge population rendering them homeless.
He dug in his heels in protest against the project till the last minute. He had lost his own ancestral home due to the construction of the dam.
He also protested against the erstwhile Tehri royals which landed him in jail. He was also one of the most vocal critics of luxury tourism in the Himalayas and the construction of hotels which according to him did irreparable harm to the fragile Himalayan ecology.
He undertook several 'padayatra' to create awareness among people about conserving the Himalayan ecology and environment.
He was a big critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Meanwhile, expressing grief on his death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that it is a "monumental loss" for our nation, and he manifested our centuries-old ethos of living in harmony with nature.
Paying tributes, Modi tweeted, "Passing away of Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna Ji is a monumental loss for our nation. He manifested our centuries-old ethos of living in harmony with nature. His simplicity and spirit of compassion will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with his family and many admirers. Om Shanti."
Apart from PM, President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaya Naidu also condoled the demise of Bahuguna, saying it marks the end of a glorious chapter in the field of conservation.
The demise of Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna marks the end of a glorious chapter in the field of conservation. A 'Padma Vibhushan' awardee, he was a Gandhian to the core. A legend in his own right, he made conservation a people's movement. My condolences to his family and admirers, Kovind tweeted.
The Vice President Secretariat, quoting Naidu said in a tweet "Pained to know that Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna ji has passed away. As a prominent environmentalist and a leader of the Chipko movement, his untiring efforts for the preservation of the Himalayan ecosystem earned him global recognition and will long be remembered,"
Bahuguna's efforts have spawned a generation of environmentalists and will inspire many more to come, the vice president said in another tweet.
"Our tribute to him is to strive and live by his idea- 'ecology is our permanent economy'. My deepest condolences to his family and followers. Om Shanti," he added