18
Jan
12

And then, there were none?

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.” – Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays

Returned from Kachchh earlier this month.

Glad to have met old friends but the trip remains sad and I fear what the future has in store for this most wondrous of places. Within hours of reaching Bhuj, I also learnt about the fire that apparently wiped-out Musabhai’s Bhunga and all his worldly possessions, including his flutes.

The Rann Festival will probably become one of the greatest threats to the sensitive eco-systems of this region – and nobody within the Sarkari Raj is concerned as long as the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ becomes global. Sadly, the Kachchhis themselves seem oblivious to the impending catastrophes that face them and, I don’t just mean the flora and fauna. Who is allowing high-rise buildings to be constructed? Haven’t enough lives been lost in 2001?

 

“I hope we are able to spot Flamingos,” my friend had said, the morning we left for Kala Dungar. It was his first visit to Kachchh and happily, the lakes, water-bodies and marshlands were full and we did spot many birds.

The Rann too would be filled with water! However, my elation wilted a little by the time we reached Bhirandiyara. I was visiting after five months and the place was now teeming with vehicles, food and soft-drink outlets; and infested with garbage and flies. The friend looked around at the area pockmarked with hoardings, bric-a-brac shops and other trappings promoted under the guise of tourism and reluctantly accepted the offer of a ‘tea-break’.

*

Past the bizarre police check post-cum-permit collection point and on the Khavda road, I notice more tourism banners and a sign pointing to a handicrafts bazaar. Curious, I drive the vehicle down the kachhā road and find a large rectangular area with an assortment of handicraft stalls. I catch sight of Ibrahimbhai – master crafts person, lying within the confines of his small ‘maatikam area’ – his goods displayed in the open.

“Nobody comes here!” he said despondently.

As always, I promise to visit his Khavda home to meet his family and coax my friend to buy some terracotta items.

The landscape is pockmarked with billboards announcing the latest Kachchh Festival and its trappings. We swing-off the main road and head towards Kalo Dungar. By 2008-2009, a huge tract of land after Dhrobana village had already

been scarred by bulldozers to create an open-air theatre for tourists.

It is a ghastly blot on the landscape now – larger than before with massive lime/white-paint lettering broadcasting the name of the festival with current year. Am sure the writing is large enough to be seen from the moon! Village children are selling plastic sachets of water and the Indian Jujube bushes shamefully display their latest plastic wrappers.

*

I was further mortified as we made the final approach to Kalo Dungar. What has happened to the place? More buildings with colours of putrefying festival confectionery and then we were greeted by the ridiculous sounds of ‘Kolaveri’ screeching out from the handicraft shop selling glitzy artefacts.

I avoid looking at my friend’s face as we walk towards the temple. Garbage is littered everywhere and the wind carries the plastic bags to the Great Rann. What are the temple Trustees doing?  What is the mahantji doing? What are these Indians doing?  Why can’t we keep our country clean?

I think it was Robert Redford who once said that, “the environment should be put in the category of our national security.”

Can we as a nation ever rise above our hypocrisy, internal strife, party politics, ineffectual ‘sustainable tourism’ policies and cliquishness?

There was more! The forest department in all its wisdom has not only constructed ghastly paths

But, 462 m above sea level; bone piercing cold wind – have also kept 4 Emus in a pathetic approximately 30’x20′ enclosure.

These birds were not here in July 2011.

Whose stupid idea was it? They are not looking well and faeces is different coloured and diarrhoeal. The hordes of tourists who are carted up to this once serene and quiet place screech at the Emus and feed them ‘ratlami sev’ and other stuff; throw pebbles and generally add to the trauma of the captives.

The BSF personnel scowl at the ‘hujoom’ and clean their weapons with great vigour. I sight a familiar face and accept his, “Sirji! Chāi peeke jaao.” I ask the army men about the Emus and find that most are unhappy about the Emus being kept there and the expansions planned by the Forest/Tourism Departments. They tell me that one of the birds had escaped but couldn’t manage the unfamiliar terrain and had ultimately entangled itself into a thorny bush and grievously injured itself.

There was still one more nail for the coffin. The wild jackals have gone too. The number of these jackals has been dwindling slowly and for the first time in 25 years I saw only one animal – that too for  a few seconds. Even the Prasad quantity has decreased.



1 Response to “And then, there were none?”


  1. 1 Samira
    January 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I have an idea for the state govt – train the emus to come and feed at the clearing instead of the jackals! Who cares about the legend of Kala Dungar anyway…..


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