Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mangrove Muddle

This is a real incident that happened while I was doing research on mangroves in GoaIndia in the 80’s.

Mangroves are trees that grow in the estuaries and their roots remain submerged during high tide. They have developed arial roots to breath. The mud flats are a very dangerous place to get stuck in. The mud is soft and just slides you into its clayey embrace very slowly indeed. 
The Mangroves have a great ecological significance as it acts as a buffer zone against cyclones and tidal waves. A need to conserve and importantly, save them from being chopped down for development and as firewood. They are not easy to grow in nurseries and thus afforestation is not a viable option. It would rather be worthwhile to let them regenerate but restricting human activity. Completely sealing it off would result in a revolt, as local communities depend on it's rich waters for their livelihood.
Currently, India accounts for 2.60 per cent of the world’s total mangrove cover with an area of 4827 sq. km. While the east coast accounts for 57 per cent of the total mangroves found in the country, the west coast boasts of 23 per cent of the country’s mangrove wealth. The remaining 23 per cent mangroves are found flourishing in the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. Source
Unfortunately, in India there are no stringent and well conceived laws to regulate the use of mangroves and for their conservation. Not long back mangroves used to be treated as a part of the wetland between land and sea. Importantly, realizing there contribution to ecology, of late both the Government agencies and voluntary organizations have started creating awareness about the need to conserve the rich mangrove forests.Source

The Rhizophora roots
Like a bed of nails
Point fingers at the skies.
The smell of the gases
That bubble from below
Burst gently in the 
Heavy humid reeking air
That hangs over the marsh.
The sunset casts a spell
Of orange stickiness that creeps
Between the dermis and the bone.
Stuck I am waist-deep in mud!

Little Uca crabs scuttle sideways
Fiddle and violin held up high
Blue streaks on the white disappear
As they gently slide into their holes.
There flashed by a white egret
On my right, as a heron
Flew off with a fish for dinner
To the Avicennia trees that grow
Just at the edge of the river.
I can hear the chicks in their nests
Tweet in delight as the fish
Mother heron brought
Slid down their throats.
Ah, I can feel polychaetes
Slither into my jeans as I stand there
Unable to move an inch!

The mud banks of the Mandovi
Stretch out firm and inviting
The waves make faint ripples
On silver sand edges
As I stand rooted in the
Mangrove forest mud.
Oh! for a friendly Goan fisherman
To spot me on his way
To the basket traps
At the estuary mouth.
The smell of frying fish
That whiff of heavenly bliss
And I hear a rumble rising
From deep inside the mud
That’s now up till my chest
Emm, that my stomach crying!

The sun now set
The darkness wrapped me
In a warm cocoon of smooth mire.
Slowly sliding
Deeper and deeper
Into a mangrove grave
Never to be free ever again.
My cries of help lost in the dark
As I wait for the damp mud
To enter my nostrils!

And I wake up
From the tired haze
To the sweet sounds
Of approaching help!

© Nalini Hebbar/openmind/2009 - all rights reserved
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Tarun Mitra said...

nice composition between science and arts...

Purba said...

Amitav Ghosh talks about Suderbans' dying mangroves in his book "The Hungry Tide"

Karan Agrawal said...

Hatsoff to your creativity! Informative and creative.

Anonymous said...

What an experience! You must have been so thankful to hear the sounds of approaching help!

Here in Mumbai cutting Mangroves is a big issue. Conservationaists try to save them and builders try to cut them.

Rajlakshmi said...

loved how you have given a beautiful meaning to this post. Indeed these natural creations should be protected...
that experience must have been scary :)
well penned.

Pramathesh said...

#iLike :)

Vinita Apte said...

The poem was chilling and scary on one hand and giving so much of information on the other.

What a scary experience...

Anonymous said...

Precious information about mangroves. The poem is really deep like the roots of mangrove. Awesome !!

Anonymous said...

Precious information about mangroves. The poem is really deep like the roots of mangrove. Awesome !!

Unknown said...

I think that the photograph says it all.

Rajendra Raikwar said...

very nice