Recently took a small group of ecotourists to the mangrove forest at Pichavarram on the East Coast of India. This is my first visit after the Tsunami. I had taken a group there in early December of 2005 and we had planned on being back there for that Christmas – guess one could call that a close one!
Anyhow, this mangrove forest, though not large, is an absolute gem. Some years ago an overambitious idiot researcher had tunnelled out a whole bunch of canals through the forest, probably destroying a good 15% of the original mangrove.
Still the mangrove is reclaiming it’s territory and it was heartening to see that the Tsunami also had not wiped it out.
There are around fifty boatmen who make a livelihood carting ecotourists around the mangrove. Each of them is amazing. They have no ‘formal education’ but know each species of plant, the birds and all the marine life by heart. I have been amazed to hear them give the scientific names, uses, medicinal properties…of these creatures that are unique to the mangrove.
We float through dark tunnels of mangrove, silent except for the gentle swish of the paddle, dappled sunlight speckles the water. The red and black mangroves form dense jungles and the narrowly arched boating tunnels are lined with veritable sculptures of cobwebs. The lone heron contemplates the rich marine life visible only to her eye…
There is a lovely beach on the other side of the mangrove. It was disheartening to see that a large commercial prawn fishery had been quietly set up on one of the nearby islands and even sadder to see the chunks of blasted coral that litter the beach – a sure indication that the corral reefs are being blasted with dynamite for commercial purposes.
Still, I am heartened to see that this present generation of our youth are more conscious of the value of nature and the need to preserve and protect our fast vanishing wilderness. I believe that they are our only hope, for my generation has miserably failed…
Our world is losing 7% to 10% of its mangroves each year. Let us all pray that today’s young people will do better!