At a time and age when new and emerging concerns about the environment are throwing up serious challenges, it’s only indispensible that all the global citizens come together to tackle this very serious menace of environmental degradation that is threatening our very existence. Yet throughout history and even now we continuously come across names that sincerely work towards creating a better tomorrow by fostering a better present through their whole hearted efforts. Here are 42 such famous environmentalists in India who indeed brought a change with their selfless concern for nature-
#1 Jadav Payeng
The Forest Man of India, Jadav Payeng is a famous environmentalist in India. Hailing from the North eastern state of Assam which is an abode of greenery, Payeng has over the course of several decades planted a forest on a sandbar of the river Brahmaputra. Named Molai forest after his name Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng, this unique initiative earned Payeng the honor of being bestowed with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
#2 Sumaira Abdulali
Born: 22 May 1961
Sumaira Abdulali is an Indian environmentalist with a difference. Her thrust on highlighting unconventional forms of environmental hazards such as noise pollution and sand mining has earned her several awards. The Co-Chairman of the Conservation Sub Committee and Honorary Secretary of Asia’s oldest and largest environmental NGO, the Bombay Natural History Society, Abdulali has also set up the first ever network for protection of activists in India.
#3 Norma Alvares
Norma Alvares is one wing of the famous Alvares environmentalist couple in India. Born in Goa, this 2002 Padma Shri awardee has along with her partner initiated numerous environmental conservation projects that has been very instrumental in retaining the traditional environmental heritage of the state.
#4 Claude Alvares
Claude Alvares shares not just his life with his environmentalist wife Norma Alvares, but the couple also bond over their shared passion of protecting the environment. A member of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on Hazardous Wastes constituted by the Supreme Court of India, Claude’s environmentalist spirit sure is one of the reasons why Goa still retains its charm in spite of the tremendous tourist influx.
#5 Mansukhbhai Raghavjibhai Prajapati
Raghavjibhai Prajapati might not be an environmental activist per se but with his unique innovation that is a huge step forward in making the environment more sustainable is sure a crusader for a greener earth. The fridge that he made out of clay, called the Mitti Cool Fridge is one of his eco friendly inventions and can sure go a long way in promoting the conservation of the environment.
#6 Sarla Behn
Born: 5 April, 1901
Died: 8 July, 1982
A key player in the evolution of the Chipko Movement in India, Sarla Behn is a Gandhian environmental activist who helped create awareness about the environmental destruction in the Himalayan forests of the state. Sarla’s role in propagating the Chiko movement was no less crucial than those of its spear headers. She urged the movement in its resistant to lumbering and excessive tapping of resin from the pine trees.
#7 Indira Chakravarty
Another famous environmentalist in India is the 2014 Padma Shri awardee Indira Chakravarty. Also a public health activist, Chakravarty’s work in the field of conserving the environment and in propagating the cause of public health also earned her the Edourdo Souma Award, Indira Gandhi National Priyadarshini Award and the USF Global Leadership Award.
#8 Vasundhara Das
Born: 27 October, 1977
Though reknowned as a singer and actress, Vasundhara Das is also an environmental activist. In a headlining performance corresponding to UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water at Bengaluru Fantastic, Vasundhara called out people to recognise the importance of water as a city wide ecological challenge.
#9 Sunderlal Bahuguna
Born: 9 January, 1927
One of the most famous of environmentalists in India is Sunderlal Bahuguna, propagator of the Chipko movement. The highly successful environmental conservation program that was accomplished with the help of the locals is a stark reminder of how stature becomes powerless in the face of persisting unity. Bahuguna is the recipient of the 2009 Padma Bivushan award of the Government of India for his efforts towards environment conservation.
#10 Kinkri Devi
Died: 30 December, 2007
The Indian activist and environmentalist, best known for waging a war on illegal mining and quarrying in her native state of Himachal Pradesh is Kinkri Devi. Even as a sweeper who was living in conditions of abject poverty, Devi chose to honor her responsibility as a true citizen of the earth when she took up environmental causes on her own. An exemplarily ordinary woman, Kinkri Devi was also invited to attend the International Women’s Conference in Beijing besides being awarded the Stree Shakti in 1999.
#11 Tulsi Gowda
An environmentalist from the state of Karnataka in India, Tulsi Gowda has planted 100,000 saplings and looks after the nurseries of the Forest department and continues to be a nurturer of nature even as a septuagenarian. Recipient of the Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award, the Rajyotsava Award, Kavita Memorial Award and Indavalu H Honnayya Samaj Seva Award, Gowda continues to plant trees in her mission to conserve the environment.
#12 Indira Gandhi
Born: 19 November 1917
Died: 31 October 1984
One of the famous early environmentalist in India has been Indira Gandhi, the country’s only woman Prime Minister. In her term as the Prime Minister Gandhi indeed has been authoritative and strongly political. But what remains a fact is that she was something of a naturalist herself. Not only did she formulate the Wildlife Protection Act, but also she was an active crusader of the Save the Tiger campaign.
#13 Almitra Patel
Environmentalist Almrita Patel has been actively associated with such causes as protecting the Gir Lions, saving Ulsoor Lake, solid waste management, and building low cost homes while also being an instrumental factor that led to the drafting of the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rule.
#14 Amla Ruia
Her reputation as the woman who saved lakhs of people from poverty might make her a social icon but Amla Ruia is more than just that. She is also a famous environmentalist in India who embarked to initiate steps to conserve the environment after a series of droughts had impacted her young self. Known popularly as Paani Mata, Ruia has been using traditional water harvesting techniques and building check dams in an effort to somewhat reduce the burden on the environment.
#15 Agatha Sangma
Born: 24 July 1980
An Indian Member of Parliament and a lawyer, Meghalaya native Agatha Sangma is also an environmentalist. With a masters in environmental management from the Nottingham University in England, Sangma has been actively associated with such issues and causes as concerns the environment.
#16 Silverine Swer
Born: 12 November, 1910
Died: 1 February, 2014
Another Padma Shree award winning famous environmentalist in India is Silverine Swer. Popularly known as Kong Sil, this Indian social and environmental activist was also instrumental in recognising the sustainable use of water in preserving the environment.
#17 Chandi Prasad Bhatt
Born: 23 June 1934
A Gandhian at heart and an environmentalist by nature, Chandi Prasad Bhatt is another of the pioneers of the Chipko Movement, for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1982. Also a recipient of the Padma Bhusan award in 2005, Bhatt is in fact one of India’s first modern environmentalist. He is known for his work on subaltern social ecology and is also the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize.
#18 Pradip Krishen
Film maker and writer Pradip Krishen is also an environmentalist and naturalist. Even when Krishen’s films won considerable national and international accolades and acclaim, he subsequently forsake the art of film making in order to pursue the greater cause of environmental protection.
#19 Medha Patkar
Born: 1 December 1954
Medha Patkar has been one among the more famous environmentalist in India. The revolutionary Narmada Bachao Andolan initiated by her has been instrumental in bringing a change in the environmental process in India. Her fight for the cause of justice of the dam project affected people has claimed her the Right Livelihood Award and the 1992 Goldman Prize for Asia.
#20 Marimuthu Yoganathan
A Coimbatore bus conductor who has been an unlikely promulgator of the movement to preserve the environment is Marimuthu Yoganathan. Fondly known as the Tree Man of India, Yoganathan has single-handedly planted over three lakh saplings since the past thirty years. Someone who contributes 40% of his salary to the cause of protecting the environment, Yoganathan is undoubtedly one famous environmentalist in India. For his efforts towards environmental conservation, this genuine nurturer of nature had been bestowed with the title ‘Suttru Suzhal Sevai Veerar’, or Eco-Warrior by the Tamil government.
#21 Vandana Shiva
Born: 5 November 1952
A scholar and an environmental activist, Vandana Shiva is the founder of Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights and also the founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy. An environmental hero, as recognised by Time Magazine in 2003, Vandana Shiva has also been the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award in 1993, an honor referred to also as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
#22 Anadish Pal
An inventor and poet, Anadish Pal is also a hardcore environmentalist who has been working to save trees in Delhi. His protest against the illegal girdling of a tree in 2008 had also lent him to be embroiled in a criminal and defamation case.
#23 Purnima Barman
Purnima Barman is a biologist and famous environmentalist in India who has been the recipient of the prestigious Whitley award. Also known as the Green Oscars, Barman was conferred the award in recognition of her efforts towards the conservation of the Greater Adjutant Stork and its habitat. Her work with the local people has led to the formulation of the ‘Hargila Army’ and her concerted efforts has helped in sustaining the endangered bird population to a great extent.
#24 Kallen Pokkudan
Died: 27 September 2015
A very famous environmentalist in India has been Kerala man Kallen Pokkudan. Recipient of numerous awards including the Bala Sahitya Institute Award and the P. S. Gopinathan Nair Environmental Award, the mangrove crusader of India has been instrumental in realising the importance of these groves on the sustainability of the planet. Also a prolific writer, Pokkudan is the founder of the Mangrove School that attempts to educate people about the ecological importance of mangroves.
#25 Anupam Mishra
Died: 19 December 2016
India’s Water Guru who had dedicated his life efforts to the conservation of water, Anupam Mishra was a Gandhian environmentalist and the recipient of the 1996 Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar (IGPP) award instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. He had been phenomenal in his meticulous endeavor towards rainwater harvesting through implementation of traditional knowledge. Mishra was also one of the early chroniclers of the Chipko movement and had been awarded the Jamnalal BajajAward for the year 2011 .
An Indian poet and activist, Sugathakumari has been at the forefront of South India’s environmental movement. Her role in the Save Silent Valley project and her environment activism earned her a number of awards. A recipient of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi twice, Sugathakumari was also bestowed with the first Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award from the Government of India for her efforts in environmental conservation and afforestation.
#27 Mike Pandey
A famous environmentalist in India is Mike Pandey, a film maker specialising in films about wildlife and the environment. Pandey is the first Asian producer / director to win the Wildscreen Panda Award, also known as the Green Oscar, in 1994. Pandey went on to become a three time winner of the Green Oscar and his film Vanishing Giants led to the ban of cruel and outdated techniques of elephant capture in India. Mike was also awarded the CMS – UNEP Award for Outstanding Achievement In Global Conservation for his outstanding contribution towards generating awareness leading to the conservation of the Whale Shark.
#28 Shangnaidar Tontang
Another female Indian environmentalist is Shangnaidar Tontang who has led the disaster management and rehabilitation work in the aftermath of the floods and landslides that hit the Chandel district of Manipur.
#29 Robin Banerjee
Born: 12 August 1908
Died: 6 August 2003,
A noted wildlife expert and environmentalist was Robin Banerjee whose love for the wilderness became his final calling. Called fondly as “Uncle Robin” by locals near his settlement in Golaghat, Banerjee donated lands for setting up the local school, and health camps. He was also the founder of the Kaziranga Wildlife Society and was particularly active regarding issues concerning the national park.
#30 Bano Haralu
Known as the lady who saved Nagaland’s Amur Falcons, Bano Haralu is a former award winning journalist and now environment conservationist whose ‘Friends of the Amur Falcon’ campaign took shape in the face of the mass birds massacre in Nagaland.
#31 K. Shivaram Karanth
Born: 10th October 1902
Died: 9th December 1997
Kota Shivaram Karanth was a highly regarded intellectual and also a notable environmentalist. His contribution to the art and culture of Karnataka is priceless. He is often listed among the most influential novelists in the Kannada language. His novels include Marali Mannige, Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, Ade OOru Ade Mara amongst many others.
#32 John C. Jacob
Died: 11 October 2008
John C. Jacob was amongst the pioneers of the environmental movement in the state of Kerala, India. He was born at Nattakam. He started the Society for Environment Education, Kerala (SEEK). He played a huge role in the movement against the Silent Valley project in South Kerala.
#33 Radha Bhatt
Radha Bhatt is a well known political and social activist of India. She has fought alcoholism among the men in the state of alcoholism and for the empowerment of women. She was also a part of the Chipko movement and actively protested against big dams.
#34 Nalini Sekhar
Nalini Shekhar is a social activist and also the co-founder of Hasiru Dala or the Green Force. It is a non-profit helping marginalized waste pickers based in Bengaluru. They were recognized for their work to create a more sustainable waste management system in the city.
#35 Maneka Gandhi
Born: 26 August 1956
Maneka Gandhi is an active political leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Her work as an environmentalist and animal rights activist has been
well appreciated by the people. She is also the author of a number of books covering the areas of animal welfare, etymology and law.
#36 Saalumarada Thimmakka
Saalumarada Thimmakka is an Indian environmentalist from Karnataka. She planted 385 banyan trees along a stretch of four kilometers between Hulikal and Kudur and 8000 other trees as well.
Thimmakka didn’t receive any formal education. She tried to commit suicide as she was devastated to know that she couldn’t bear a child.
Her husband’s support led her to move on and she took to planting trees thereafter. She was honoured with the Padma Shri Award in the year 2019.
#37 Naseeruddin Shah
Popular actor Naseeruddin Shah is known for his work both in films and the stage. He has also showcased his abilities as a director and won many awards including the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan.
Shah has received three National Film Awards. However he is known not only for his contribution to Indian cinema but also for his work as an environmentalist.
#38 Shehla Masood
Shehla Masood was a well known environmentalist and wildlife activist. She was also an RTI activist. She was murdered by three people who were hired to kill her. The tragedy took place in Bhopal in front of her house where she was shot by them while in her car. An episode was aired in Crime Patrol Dial 100 based on her murder.
#39 Akhilesh Yadav
Born: 1st July 1973
Akhilesh Yadav is an influential political leader in India and the president of the Samajwadi Party. He was elected as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and served from 2012 to 2017. Yadav is the youngest person to serve as the Chief Minister and has been a keen environmentalist and a social worker as well.
#40 Sunita Narain
Sunita Narain is a political activist and a supporter of the Green concept of sustainable development. She is an environmentalist and the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment which is a research institute in India.
Narain is also editor of the magazine – Down To Earth and also the director of Society for Environmental Communications. She was featured in the list of 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine in the year 2016.
#41 Bhagat Puran Singh
Born: 4 June 1904
Died: 5 August 1992
Born in Rajewal, Ludhiana, Bhagat Puran Singh advocated what came to be known as the ‘Green Revolution’ during its initial stage. He spread awareness about soil erosion and pollution of the environment.
The environmentalist was honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri Award in the year of 1947. Although he didn’t complete his basic schooling, it didn’t stop him to become a distinguished writer.