memories of family outings.....


A Sublime, SILENT world.

Was saddened by reports and pictures of the Samoan Tsunami and the Indonesian quake. Natural disasters have started becoming regular features in the News. A strong pointer ,perhaps, to the fact that we are not taking as much care as we should of our home planet.

Whenever the subject of Tsunami comes up, I think of the Pichavaram Mangrove Jungle. When the terrible tidal wave devastated the Nagapattinam coast in 2004, this small haven, a green David, put up a brave fight against the Goliath and lived to tell its tale . Having quickly mended its minor bruises, it is still standing there, a proud eco-warrior,luxuriant and full of wisdom to be shared with anyone who cares to lend an ear.

Having visited Pichavaram many times, I am yet to become immune to its verdant charms.

Pichavaram is the second largest mangrove biotope in Asia ( after Bengal's Sundarbans), ranking among the healthiest of wetland vegetations in the world. Spread across 1400 hectares ( still growing), in the backwaters fed by the Vellar and Coleroon rivers, and separated from the sea by a lovely sandbar, this mangrove jungle is a unique biosphere encompassing hundreds of Islets and creeks. Six or seven villages situated within the cover of this jungle were miraculously spared the fury of the tsunami while nearby hamlets were completely washed away, because of the very nature of the mangroves. Except for a few trees on the fringes closer to the sea, that were uprooted by the force of the wave, the jungle suffered little damage. The force of the invading wave was vastly weakened by the thick vegetation, and by getting diverted into the numerous creeks. There was no erosion of land as the thick web of fibrous roots held the soil fast in a stranglehold.

Mangroves , adapted to life in saline water and marshland, are quite a remarkable and funny species. They have fascinating, highly specialised adaptations to thrive in an environment that can kill off other types of vegetation. Some mangrove varieties shoot out porous , "breathing sticks" from the submerged roots to suck in oxygen . One can see armies of these eerie fingers sticking out of the emerald green water, when one goes boating . Some have "crutches" to keep themselves anchored in the water. Most have waxy leaves that are clever enough to separate the salt from the water injested and to secrete it as powdery residues.
The trees also "walk"; meaning : they throw saplings ( fully germinated while still attached to parent tree) and adventitious roots, a few inches away from their own base so that an offspring thicket grows there and the expanded clan prospers !

The mangroves support an intricate web of life with interdependant species of fish, crustaceans, birds, reptiles and small animals .

While many of the inner creeks of Pichavaram are as yet unexplored, the state government has authorised row boats to take visitors through charted creeks. What a wonderful, strange and SILENT world it is out there ! The boatmen are very knowledgeable and give a complete education about the wonders of the mangrove. But the voice is never raised above the just- audible level. Even the oars are manipulated so gently as to reduce the volume of the splash. Our voices automatically drop to a whisper too. The dense, overhanging trees lining the narrow creeks create the feeling of meandering through watery caves . Sometimes, the boat gets within touching distance from the mesh of roots. At such points, one can spot creatures like the goggle eyed mudfish, bright orange crabs with mean pincers, ceaselessly squirming guppies, brilliantly patterned spiders and bunches of mussels. Egrets and terns flutter among the boughs.

The livelihood of many nearby villages depends on this jungle which provides them fuel , food and medicines. Its heartening to hear the villagers speak of the jungle with immense respect and piety. One can be sure that they will always protect it and not exploit it for quick gain.

One has seen in documentaries , explorer's dugouts splicing through the creeks of Amazonian rainforests. Gliding through the cool, green, cavernous alleys of the Pichavaram creeks feels like a close approximation of that. Its a wonderful experience .
Unfailingly enchanting. Everytime.

( Pichavaram is 15 kms. from Chidambaram , 75Kms. from Pondicherry. There are no "amenities" here , perhaps thats good for the place. The approach road is only an apology. And thats not good for the car ! )


Capt. Anup Murthy said...

I love mangroves and absolutely loved this post. I completely agree, mangroves not only take on the might of the Tsunami, they are effective in preventing coastal erosion. Here is a coincidence. I was watching TV and just a few hours back before reading this post, there was a documentary showing massive erosion of beaches and seashore on the Gulf of Thailand coast. They attributed this to the clearing of mangroves in order to build shrimp farms. They are paying a huge price now for clearing out the Mangroves. It is estimated that 2 kilometers of land is being eroded every year, leading to monetary loss of $150 Million Dollars and most importantly, loss of habitat for many species and a grave danger to the City of Bangkok which may see flooding in future as a result of this. Our generation of humans is failing in a big way with respect to the environment with most politicians only paying lip service to the issues of environment. I feel strongly about this, hence the long comment!

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

May I put a link to this post on twitter for others to read? A post on mangroves should be well publicized, at least for the sake of making people aware of the environment.

YOSEE said...

I'm so glad you share my sentiments about the senseless invasions humans make into the natural world - all for short term gains without a thought for the coming generations.I wish more people would wake up and resist reckless "development".

With the invention of a colossal fraud called " Carbon Credits", the developed world is merrily sweeping all its crimes under the carpet leaving the developing nations, that had no hand in those crimes, to pay the price. It really freaks me out :-(

Sure you can link this in your tweets, no problem.

And when you are in India next, do visit Pichavaram.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Yosee: Thanks, I will put this on twitter. I agree with you about carbon credit trading also. The World's politicians invent new scams to scalp money, this time in the name of environment. Future generations may look back upon this period and say that this is where humans forgot to evolve and ruined everything because of greed.

I am going to be India end of this month but have very limited time but I do hope to visit Pichavaram some time. There are some mangrove areas in Goa believe (coz I am going to goa), and will visit the area also, hopefully.

Anonymous said...

ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿದೆ ಬಹು ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿದೆ.
I share your sentiments and Capt. Murthy's in their entireity. As inconvenient as being "underdeveloped" was., "development" is an equal fright. And if you see the way IEEE takes an American tone on India and China "giving ground" to the "green" cause... you would like to clobber them. And yet, the world will survive. The only questions are how many humans will survive and in what state. And will we be the dominant species in the future?

YOSEE said...

We have already set the timer and the count down to "2012" has already begun.
Perhaps it will be be better for the world if we are NOT the dominant species ! We were given a chance in dominance and we messed it up royally.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Yosee: I hope you are not buying that Mayan calender nonsense! That is such an elaborate fake but great book/movie material. There is really no archaeological basis at all, this so called prediction from a civilization that could not predict its own demise at the hands of the Spanish, complete annihilation that too. And the fact that they had no writing (carved hieroglyphs) and their counting/math was in beads. I have actually visited Mayan archaeological sites including the famous, most detailed site called Copan Ruinas in the Honduras jungles bordering Guatemala.

I tend to go with the established scientific calculations that the ancient indians had, I also read ancientindians blog and find it fascinating. We may have many more human caused disasters but Kaliyuga is nowhere close to an end! Unfortunately we have not evolved to the point where we can lead the planet, very unfortunate.

BTW, there is a site called Mysoreblogpark where a lot of us post our blogs, many of the authors are not mysoreans or even remotely the same you may already know about this. Here's the weblink: and this may give more coverage/eyeball to your blog. I would like to post your blog on it if you don't have any objections. Do let me know.

YOSEE said...

Capt. ! You thought i'm quaking under the table at the thought of impending apocalypse in 2012? LOL ! I find the whole Mayan hullabaloo very entertaining. I firmly believe in our panchangas according to which our kaliyuga is still quite young,thank you!:-)
In my response to AI's comment, i put in "2012" as a metaphor for worldwide doom, becoz,the way our ecology is getting tattered, doom of some sort is bound to happen sooner than later.
(PS: the 2012 movie is eagerly awaited !)

YOSEE said...

Mysoreblogpark is on my reading list. I do keep posting some comments there. Couldn't figure out how to join the club though. Is it by invitation only ?
Will be grateful for some assistance.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Yosee: Sorry, I have mis understood the 2012 comment because I do get a lot of chain mails on that everyday from panic sounding people! LOL, I am glad that you took it in a funny manner! I saw the trailer of 2012 on the giant screen here and the special effects were outstanding. I don't still know how so many people here are buying into this Mayan joke seriously! Regarding MysoreBlogPark, it was GV Krishnan's idea, we have known each other for a while. Some of the bloggers have been given the user name and password and we just publish our blogs on MBP. If you could give me your e-mail id, I can pass it on to GVK, I have already mentioned about your blog. He'll send the details for you to log in and all. We'll be glad to have your blog on the MBP blogroll. If you don't want to publicise your mail id here in the comment section, do mail me at:

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

PS: I also really liked your sketches of the Chitradurga Fort and posted a comment earlier. Hope you saw that!

Kamini said...

This is a beautiful post. The pictures of Pichavaram are simply stunning, and I am determined to visit it the next time I am near there.
By the way have you read "The Hungry Tide" by Amitav Ghosh? It's a lovely book, set in the mangroves of the Sundarbans.

YOSEE said...

Thank you Kamini. I'm sure you will enjoy visiting this, i havn't read that one by A.Ghosh. Still reeling from the heaviness of poppies !

Dibs said...

Pichavaram looks so good! Sadly I have never seen it. Sudarbans are really good as well ...however one can never really go deep inside. There is a goct authorised ferry - so what you can really see is forests on either sides of a huge expanse of water. at specific points there are watch towers ...and the predictable "fresh tiger foot prints" that seems to conveniently appear for every tourist load that stops at these points :-)

YOSEE said...

Sunderbans must have been exciting.I dint know pugmarks appear "conveniently" for the pleasure of all tourists ! This info surely takes the wind out of all excitement ! In Pichavaram too, there's lot of unexplored places.But the creeks crossed by the boat do give the feel of going "deep into the jungle".