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Kalpavriksh was established in 1979 and works on environmental awareness, campaigns, litigation, research, and other areas. It has taken a position on a number of environment-development issues, more often than not confronting the state through measures ranging from protest letters to street demonstrations. Many of its members have been through an intense and diverse learning process: initiating local protests against the destruction of Delhi’s largest green area (the Ridge), treks through the Himalayan region with the Chipko Andolan, the first detailed study of the impacts of the Narmada projects, investigations into police firing in Bharatpur bird reserve, and all this while continuing nature walks and lobbying for wildlife conservation and animal rights.
With such a background, it is not surprising that the NGO has continued to participate in mass movements challenging the state and its policies, while episodically supporting elements of the state that have moved progressively on environmental and development fronts.
Kalpavriksh believes that a country can develop meaningfully only when ecological sustainability and social equity are guaranteed, and a sense of respect for, and oneness with nature, and fellow humans is achieved. It is a non-hierarchical organisation and the group takes all decisions after appropriate debate and discussion.
Kalpavriksh is a name taken from Indian mythology and denotes a mythical tree which could grant all your wishes. 'Kalpa' in Sanskrit means imagination and 'vriksh' is a tree. Thus, the name stands for 'a tree of imagination'.
There are a few Indian trees like Peepul (Sacred Fig) and Bargad (Banyan) which are supposed to embody the giving nature of Kalpavriksh. But, as with all mythologies the name was more a symbol of the nurturing qualities of nature itself. Philosophically, the wish granting aspect of 'Kalpavriksh' is supposed to be accompanied by the power to make that wish come true. Thus, Kalpavriksh is symbolic of a more proactive process than just asking for a wish: you could actually make it happen if you so desired.
The group, Kalpavriksh, thus, is not a mere figment of imagination. Instead, it's a wish the members granted for themselves, a wish for a saner environment for our country and the world, and work towards attaining it.
Today, the group is recognized for the pioneering work that it has done over the years, without patronage, without compromise and without grand ambitions, but with a unique sense of purpose and conviction.
Another reason this name was chosen was that the members of Kalpavriksh wanted to look within their own philosophical and cultural roots for inspiration. Kalpavriksh rejected the notion that environmental conservation as a movement and as an ideology was a western precept. India had its own tradition and beliefs about conservation which the organisation wanted to explore. It was Kalpavriksh's conviction that India's environmental issues needed an Indian analysis and an Indian solution. Kalpavriksh was convinced that if the western model of development was not of much use to them, then the set of western solutions could also not serve any purpose. It was, in a way, a youthful rebellion against the lingering presence of residual western ideological imperialism which pervaded countries like India in the 70s.
Thus was born Kalpavriksh, the Environmental Action Group.