Renowned Environmentalists of India
i. Salim Ali
Salim Ali was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist; known as the “birdman of India”, Salim Ali was among the first Indians to conduct systematic bird surveys across India. He was instrumental in creating the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (Keoladeo National Park) and prevents the destruction of what is now the Silent Valley National Park. He was awarded India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in 1976.
ii. M S Swaminathan
M S Swaminathan is one of India’s foremost agricultural scientists and has also been concerned with various aspects of biodiversity conservation both of cultivars and wild biodiversity. He has founded the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, which does work on the conservation of biological diversity.
iii. M C Mehta
M C Mehta is undoubtedly India’s most famous environmental lawyer. Since 1984, he has filed several Public Interest Litigations for supporting the cause of environmental conservation. His most famous and long drawn battles supported by the Supreme Court include protecting the Taj Mahal, cleaning up the Ganges River, banning intensive shrimp farming on the coast, initiating Government to implement environmental education in schools and colleges, and a variety of other conservation issues.
iv. Sunderlal Bahugna
Sunderlal Bahugna’s Chipko Movement has become an internationally well-known example of a highly successful conservation action program through the efforts of local people for guarding their forest resources. His fight to prevent the construction of the Tehri Dam in a fragile earthquake prone setting is a battle that he continues to wage. The Garhwal Hills will always remember his dedication to the cause for which he has walked over 20 thousand kilometers.
v. Anil Kumar Agarwal
Anil Kumar Agarwal was the founder-director of the Centre for Science and Environment, India’s leading environmental NGO. Agarwal spent his lifetime advocating policies that involve the people in natural resource management and learn from India’s own traditions.
vi. Anupam Mishra
Anupam Mishra (1948 – 19 December 2016) was an Indian Gandhian, author, journalist, environmentalist, TED speaker(in 2009 ) and water conservationist who worked on promoting water conservation, water management and traditional rainwater harvesting techniques.He had been awarded the 1996 Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar (IGPP) award instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. He wrote books like Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab (Ponds Are Still Relevant, 1993) and Rajasthan Ki Rajat Boondein (Radiant Raindrops of Rajasthan, 1995), landmark works in the field of water conservation. Mishra was awarded the ‘Amar Shaheed Chandrasekhar Azad National Award’ of 2007–08, instituted by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Culture Department to “propagate and publicise ideals of freedom struggle, patriotism and social service”.
vii. Balbir Singh Seechewal
Balbir Singh Seechewal spearheaded an anti-river pollution campaign in Punjab, India. He received Indian civilian award Padmashri in 2017. He is also known as Eco Baba. He single-handedly cleaned and restored Kali Bein river, a 160 km long tributary of Beas in Doaba region of Punjab.
viii. Chandi Prasad Bhat
Chandi Prasad Bhatt (born 1934) is an Indian Gandhian environmentalist and social activist, who founded Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh (DGSS) in Gopeshwarin 1964, which later became a mother-organization to the Chipko Movement, in which he was one of the pioneers, and for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1982, followed by the Padma Bhushan in 2005.Today he is known for his work on subaltern social ecology, and considered one of India’s first modern environmentalist.In 2013, he was the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize.
• Parvat Parvat, Basti Basti — Publisher NBT India
• Pratikar Ke Ankur (Hindi)
• Adhure Gyan Aur Kalpanik Vishwas Par Himalaya Se Chherkhani Ghatak (Hindi)
• Future of Large Projects in the Himalaya
• Eco-system of Central Himalaya
• Chipko Experience
Awards and Honours
UNDP Global 500
Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership 1982
Padma Shri 1986
Padma Bhushan 2005
Awarded Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2013 on 15 July 2014 by The President of India
Sri Sathya Sai Award for human excellence 2016 in the category Environment by Sri Sathya Sai Lok Seva Trust
Nammalvar (Tamil : 6 April 1938 – 30 December 2013) was an Indian green crusader, agricultural scientist, environmental activist and organic farming expert best known for his work on spreading ecological farming and organic farming. He led the protest against the methane gas project started by Great Eastern Energy Corporation proposed in the Cauvery delta region of Tamilnadu. Nammalvar was the author of several Tamil and English books on natural farming, natural pesticides & natural fertilizers and was featured in magazines & television programs.
• Movement against the use Chemical Pesticides
• Movement against Methane extraction in Tamil Nadu
• Movement against the introduction of Bt brinjal in India
Nammalvar founded Nammalvar Ecological Foundation For Farm Research and Global Food Security Trust (NEFFFRGFST) or simply Vaanagam to create public awareness about the benefits of Organic Farming and about the dangers and difficulties faced in traditional farming practices. Vaanagam is located in Karur, Tamilnadu.
x. Madhav Gadgi
Madhav Dhananjaya Gadgil (born 1942) is an Indian ecologist, academic, writer, columnist and the founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, a research forum under the aegis of the Indian Institute of Science. He is a former member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India and the Head of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) of 2010, popularly known as the Gadgil Commission.He is a recipient of the Volvo Environment Prize and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. The Government of India awarded him the fourth highest civilian award of the Padma Shri in 1981 and followed it up with the third highest award of the Padma Bhushan in 2006.
Medha Patkar (born 1 December 1954) is an Indian social activist working on various crucial political and economical issues raised by tribals, dalits, farmers, labourers and women facing injustice in India.She is an alumnus of TISS, a premier institute of social science research in India.
Patkar is the founder member of the 32 years old people’s movement called Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in three states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
x. Rajendra Singh
Rajendra Singh (born 6 August 1959) is a well-known water conservationist & environmentalist from Alwar district, Rajasthan in India. Also known as “waterman of India”, he won the Magsaysay Award in 2001 and Stockholm Water Prize in 2015. He runs an NGO called ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh’ (TBS), which was founded in 1975. The NGO based in village hori-Bhikampura in Thanagazi tehsil, near Sariska Tiger Reserve, has been instrumental in fighting the slow bureaucracy, mining lobby and has helped villagers take charge of water management in their semi-arid area as it lies close to Thar Desert, through the use of johad, rainwater storage tanks, check dams and other time-tested as well as path-breaking techniques. He is one of the members of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was set up in 2009, by the Government of India as an empowered planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating authority for the Ganges (Ganga), in exercise of the powers conferred under the Environment (Protection) Act,1986.In the UK he is a founder member of an NGO called the Flow Partnership which aims to counter the negative effects of soil erosion and flooding.
Awards & Honors
• Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in 2001 for his pioneering work in community-based efforts in water harvesting and water management.
• In 2005, he got Jamnalal Bajaj Award for Application of Science and Technology for Rural Development.
• In 2008, The Guardian named him amongst its list of “50 people who could save the planet”.
• In 2015, he won the Stockholm Water Prize, an award known as “the Nobel Prize for water”.
• In 2016, he was bestowed with Ahimsa Award by Institute of Jainology based in UK.
xi. Romulus Whitaker
Romulus Earl Whitaker (born 23 May 1943) is an Indian herpetologist, wildlife conservationist and founder of the Madras Snake Park, The Andaman and Nicobar Environment Trust (ANET), and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. In 2008, Whitaker was selected as an Associate Laureate in the 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, for his efforts to create a network of rainforest research stations throughout India. In 2005 he was a winner of a Whitley Award for outstanding leadership in nature conservation. He used this award and found the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station in Karnataka, for the study of King Cobras and their habitat. For his work in wildlife conservation, he received the Padma Shri award in 2018.
xii. Saalumarada Thimmakka
Saalumarada Thimmakka, also known as Aalada Marada Timakka, is an Indian environmentalist from the state of Karnataka, noted for her work in planting and tending to 385 banyan trees along a four-kilometre stretch of highway between Hulikal and Kudur. She has also planted nearly 8000 other trees. Her story is that of grit and determination.With the support of her husband, she found solace in planting trees.
She received no formal education and worked as a casual laborer in a nearby quarry. Her work has been honoured with the National Citizen’s Award of India. Her work was recognized by the Government of India and she was conferred with Padma Shri in 2019.
A U.S. environmental organisation based in Los Angeles and Oakland, California called Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education is named after her
xiii. Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva (born 5 November 1952) is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and alter-globalization author.Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than twenty books.
She is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization (along with Jerry Mander, Ralph Nader, and Jeremy Rifkin), and a figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalization movement.She has argued for the wisdom of many traditional practices, as is evident from her interview in the book Vedic Ecology (by Ranchor Prime) that draws upon India’s Vedic heritage. She is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundacion IDEAS, Spain’s Socialist Party’s think tank. She is also a member of the International Organization for a Participatory Society. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 1993, an honor known as an “Alternative Nobel Prize”.