After nearly five years, the rains have been good in Southern Tamil Nadu, so good that on a bus journey from Tirunelveli to Tenkasi (where we have the popular Courtallam falls), we could see lots of water everywhere. Not only were the lakes filled, and overflowing, there was water in all low lying areas.
If one expected an exuberance of life, that was not to be. I saw a lone painted stork, and a few egrets. There was plenty of greenery near Tenkasi, not much of insects, butterflies, or birds. An absence, not hard to explain, considering the overload on ecosystems from all the agro-chemicals. Now subsidies are even offered for herbicides, since they “save” manual labor. Why don’t we
go one step further and abolish MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) that provides work and money for rural folks. That would save a lot more manual labor and 50,000 crores of rupees every year. Most of the work under MGNREGA would be similar to what our leaders do – move dry leaves from place A to place B, or move soil from place C to place D. Except that the leaders require camera and media for their action. Of course they just represents the collective hypocrisy, desire for easy convenience, and a lack of intelligence when it comes to using the services nature provides for free.
Back to the farm it is hard to say how much the recent rain water harvesting swales have contributed to restoring life. There is so much water everywhere, near and around the farm. It hadn’t rained for the last week or so. There’s the sparkle of early morning dew condensed on spider webs.
Vetiver grass planted somewhat upland, seems to have found enough water to thrive. These are probably 6 months old.
Damsel flies in various colors flit around. A few dragon flies could be seen too.
And an occasional bee-eater, bright green in the morning sun. A few cashew trees have started flowering, yet there were hardly any bees or flies.
The water in the pond, and swales are clear, with the dirt having settled down. Can’t really say whether there is much life in them.
The obvious things like fishes, tadpoles, frogs, and crabs are not there. With farmers and government going for ponds and rain-water harvesting, it is possible some of the life may come back. Small native fishes are several times more nutritious, than the typical sludge fish varieties, the carps -rohu, mrigal, catla. But these carps are widely promoted. Ten, twenty years back, the small creeks, after the rains would be host to 10 to 15 varieties of local fishes. Not anymore. Most creeks have been removed, soil leveled, and any live fences replaced with barbed wire.
There were a couple of beetles in the water.
The soil is moist enough in places to have mosses (bryophytes).
A bird flew out of its nest, built on a gooseberry tree. The nest is drab, meant to look more like a cobweb with dry leaves sticking on it.
Nature depends on connections, in some cases these connections are (apparently) uni-directional, say a predator finding a prey. In others it is mutually beneficial, interconnected.
Nature also provides niches, with a different micro-environment, with places to hide, that makes a great diversity of life possible. In one context, the bird brightly colored, is chirpy and active. In another context, it is quiet, and raises its young ones, in a drab, nearly invisible nest. Such fluid balance makes nature rich and diverse. Shouldn’t humans also be able to keep the connections and their privacy? Or submit themselves to a pathological surveillance State?
A butterfly rests amidst dry leaves, the brown pattern on its wings blending with the background.
A spider, looks no different from the dry leaves on its web.
Tenkasi today is a lot crowded, since it is next to the Courtallam falls. The season is a few months away, so there was little traffic, and the hotels were mostly empty. But still the environment was far different from what it was 30 years back. There was so much dust and smoke, and too many buildings everywhere. Under a bridge there were some tribals, Nari Koravas probably (nomadic, like the gypsies). They seem to have at least temporarily given up their wandering ways, and settled under the bridge. A small girl, clutches a 10 rupee note handed to her by a stranger, and rushes bright eyed, eager to show her catch to her parents. A few decades back, the children, healthy and free, might have caught some fish in a creek, a rabbit, or a quail. These people had enough to live off the land. They came to the farms once or twice a year, captured the snakes, skinned them and sold the skins. They went to the forests, got seeds, herbs, honey and other produce for trading with city folks. They also hunted quails, rabbits, and other small game. Not any more, because the boxed-in, educated elite have determined that their nomadic ways have destroyed wildlife.
Poaching laws apparently came from England, where the kings, dukes, and lords had their own forests, where everything belonged to them. Anyone who hunts there were caught and at best put in dungeons, or worst given some pretty rough punishment. Now with our mongrel intelligence, we say farmers should cultivate upto the edge of their farms, with all chemicals, use precision irrigation, remove all non-crop weeds, and destroy bugs completely. Science has determined that to be the most optimal way of extracting the maximum out of the land. There are no live fences, no ups and downs, no edges, no niches, no wild plants, no insects, no small game, because of scientific farming of progressive farmers, the science being preached from our universities. When we worship science, we realize that only these nomads can poach wildlife, and destroy them, or destroy at least what is left of them after scientific farming.
We get news every few days of some environmental activist discovering caged parrots, water birds hunted by boys, or wild game being sold. The environmentalist drives down his SUV, gets some forest official, and makes a
dramatic rescue, gets the poor folk arrested, and the media dutifully report the whole thing. Really? Our environment will be protected by these folks in glass cages and their luxury SUVs!
There are pathological environmental organizations, that are basically industry fronts, that can destroy not just wildlife, but the environment that sustains wildlife, while putting out their simple minded innocent idea of saving the environment. They may plant a few trees here and there. But they’ll take a lake, level it, create a perfect bund around it, put a few islands, so it looks like a natural lake in their idiotic minds, and then jump up and down in joy at restoring nature. A natural lake, of just a couple of acres, has shallow and deep water, and its shore is fractal, and may be several kilometers long. They do the same thing with creeks. They can’t have shrubs, and trees on its shores, or any uneven surface. This process is called de-silting of the water ways. Since most creeks in the city suburbs have sewage flowing into them, pretty soon, we have a stinky sewage channel, instead of a creek with life. The belief is that a few generations from today, a sewage treatment plant will be setup, that will clean the water. Destroy the environment that supports wildlife, but never hunt, it is against the law!
Who hasn’t heard of PETA? There was this big article, a few years back, in “The Hindu” newspaper about a lady from some western country (in Europe, but could have been America). She flew in into the country, found some poor guy who was poking his oxen, to make them run faster. She told him that, what he does will hurt the bulls, and apparently the guy agreed, and promised not to poke his bulls. Her relationship to the bulls is superior to the guy’s. A guy who feeds, and cares for his animals, and has more stake in the health of his animals, is advised by a rootless lady. There are quite a few sages in PETA who offer several crore rupees (a million dollars) for anyone who discovers and manufactures synthetic “meat”.
After rigorous research in labs, go and level a few mountains, create lots of machinery, get all resources from all the ripped off mountains and forests, create a pyramid scheme that at its base sucks all the resources, and labor, and pushes out from the top some tasteless, nutrition-less, fake meat, that will keep the animals happy and free? Or make the animals non-existent, and the ecosystem services they provide also non-existent, and save the planet? Of course, I’m all for PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of (PETA) Activists!