Sunderlal Bahuguna
Sunderlal Bahuguna Image Credit: ANI

Dehradun: Noted environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna died of Covid-19 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh on Friday.

Bhuguna breathed his last at 12.05 pm, AIIMS Director Ravikant said.

He is survived by his wife Vimla, two sons and a daughter.

The 94-year-old environmentalist known for his pioneering role in the Chipko movement was under treatment for Covid-19 at the hospital for over a week.

Admitted at the hospital on May 8 after testing positive for the infection, Bahuguna had been critical since last night with his oxygen level dropping drastically.

He was on CPAP therapy in the ICU of the premier hospital.

Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat condoled his death describing 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.

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 'padyatras' to create awareness among people about conserving the Himalayan ecology and environment.

He was a big critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Expressing his condolence at Bahuguna's death, another noted environmentalist Chandi Prasad Bhatt described him as a "brilliant social worker".

"His demise is painful for all of us," Bhatt said.

President Kovind, PM Modi condole

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the demise of renowned environmentalist and Chipko movement leader Sundarlal Bahuguna, who succumbed to COVID-19 infection at All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Rishikesh on Friday.

The President called the death of Bahuguna as an end of a glorious chapter in the field of conservation.

"The demise of 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," the official account of Rashtrapati Bhavan tweeted.

Remembering Bahuguna, the Prime Minister said he manifested the ethos of living in harmony with nature.

"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," he said.

The 94-year-old, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri awardee was admitted to the hospital after his oxygen levels started fluctuating on May 8.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat also mourned the demise of the environmental activist and prayed for peace of the departed soul.

The environmentalist had fought for the preservation of forests in the Himalayas for years.He is hugely credited for the success of the Chipko movement that began in 1973 at the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand (then a part of Uttar Pradesh).

The environment activist was also actively involved in the Anti-Tehri Dam movement.