We are ten! This is the simplest way of saying it. A decade of existence makes it sound a bit grand and a little old. But ten is not old, it’s young and lively. When you are talking about Greenpeace, no matter what age you put it will always be young, exciting and lively.

Ten years ago today, Greenpeace formally established itself in India. But there’s more to the story of Greenpeace’s beginnings in India. It was definitely not easy. To find out exactly what happened, I went to Nirmala Karunan, who was there when it all started.

“Actually,” she says, “It’s been fifteen years.” “Fifteen years?” I looked at her with surprise. I was sure my Maths was right and everyone else said it was ten years! Unable to bear the suspense, I asked Nirmala to explain and elaborate.

Toxic waste trade campaign

Greenpeace India came into existence in 1995. Annie Leonard who at that time was working with Greenpeace International came to India to check the scope for starting Greenpeace in India. With help from Nirmala and other grass root activists she started Greenpeace India in New Delhi.

In a year’s time, Greenpeace India launched its first campaign. Malini Morzaria, the toxics campaigner from Greenpeace International led this campaign. It was a campaign against toxic waste trade imports to stop making India a dumping ground for the toxic waste from western industrlised developed countries. The campaign asked the Indian government to sign and ratify the Basel Convention and to ban the movement of hazardous toxic waste from developed industrialised to developing countries.

In the same year Greenpeace India carried out its first direct action and Nirmala played an important role in it. “It was outside the environment ministry’s office. I was dressed as mother Earth, and was wearing a white saree. Greenpeace volunteers from across the world stood around me and threw muck on me,” recollects Nirmala.

Greenpeace was already starting to make heads turn and decided to get itself formally registered in 1997. The first attempt to register however failed. The famous Taj Mahal action took place in the same year. “We floated a hot air balloon saying ‘Nuclear disarmament now’, over the monument. After this we were denied entry and registration in India,” explains Nirmala.

Greenpeace action at Taj MahalThat really did not make much of a difference. The campaigns continued in true Greenpeace fashion. After toxics, it was a campaign against ship-breaking. This campaign was a big success for Greenpeace. Alang in Gujarat, the main ship dock and breaking yard was shut down. Later the French ship Clemenceau, was sent back from the port.

“After these and several other exciting campaigns, we decided to make a second attempt at getting ourselves registered in 2001,” recalls Nirmala. This time Greenpeace India was formally registered in Chennai and the rest as they say is history.

Protest against Bt brinjalThese ten years have been so fast and eventful. In these ten years Greenpeace India has created a world record, stopped bills and ships, taken on big corporate entities, the list is never ending. This has been possible because of all the people who support Greenpeace in every way. The financial supporters help maintain independence and the ones of who sign petitions, come out on the streets and join every protest and action add strength to the movement to keep our planet safe.

So now that a decade is complete, we look forward to completing many such decades, protecting and saving the planet and environment from the dangers it faces. Hope that we just keep getting younger, livelier and more exciting in the decades to come.

Happy Birthday Greenpeace India!


Image 1: © Greenpeace / T.J. Birdi

Image 2: © Greenpeace / Steve Morgan

Image 3: © Greenpeace