Silent movement


Twentyfive years later, the success of the movement for preservation of Silent Valley, a pristine rain forest in Kerala, continues to inspire those who consider protection of environment as important as development. It was in November 1974 that it was finally decided that a hydro-electric project which would have submerged the forest and wiped out a large number of unique flora and fauna would not be allowed to come up in Silent Valley. The Kerala government,  which fought hard for it, and the Central  government, which had almost approved it, came together last week, ironically to celebrate the silver jubilee of the scrapping of the dam plan and declaration of the forest as a national park. The state  has since added some more adjoining forest land to the park area to give it better protection.
The Silent Valley movement was the first important environmental agitation in the country and has become a text book example of successful mass movements.  Environmental movement was young and the awareness was yet to seep into the minds of people. It has matured over the years and is now a factor to be reckoned with in formulating and implementing public policy. It was a grassroots movement involving students, scientists, poets, artists, women and common people of all kinds who fought against a nexus of politicians, officials and timber mafia and finally prevailed. It provided the model for many other movements for protection of environment elsewhere in the country in later years. The Chipko  movement to protect trees in the Garhwal Himalayas started around the same time. There have been other agitations since then to protect the Western Ghats, the Aravalis and other ecologically sensitive regions. They have helped to plant the idea of the need to preserve the bond with nature deeply in the collective consciousness. In that sense the Silent Valley movement changed the terms of debate about development in an essential way.

Many laws and regulations which helped to protect the environment followed the movement. The Forest Conservation Act , which shifted forests from the state to the concurrent list was a direct result. But it also taught that the will of the people is stronger than governments and the laws.

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