The big gulls are here again. The awesome black hooded Pallas’s Gulls and the serene Heuglin’s Gulls are leading in the flocks. They take the eastern route through the Perar/Nila from Ponnani and are now resting in and around Kutipuram. On most days they are there in the middle of the river from morning to evening. At dusk they fly to the Purathur estuary and into the Arabian Sea. They come out of the blue and suddenly vanish into thin air…
A few years ago they peacefully rested on the sand beds of Purathur estuary during their winter visits to Kerala. But unfortunately the sand beds are no more. Those precious living grounds were literally erased from the river mouth for making a new fish landing on the southern bank of the river.
Sand dredging near the mouth of Perar called Purathur-Ponnani estuary has resulted in a serious ecological catastrophe. It is done in the name of development to make the bigger fish landing and to deepen the channel. But unfortunately it has seriously affected the estuary and related life forms severely. It is a gross encroachment into the estuary that changed its geography and water-scape and is proving to be an environmental wreck.
The ironic tragedy is that the new fish landing and reclaimed area amidst the river mouth is lying wasted. It is not benefiting the fisher folks or the vulnerable local people. It lacks basic provisions like electricity and water essential to attract fishers and traders. The dredged sand also lies wasted here. The banks near the Pally Kadavu are under the threat of erosion due to this unscientific encroached embankment into the river mouth and careless dredging.
I remember visiting the estuary on country boats with Dilip, Manoj and other friends during the previous migratory seasons. Purathur/Ponnani estuary was an asylum to thousands of migratory threatened birds from all over the world. I have seen curlews, whimbrels, godwits, shanks, sandpipers, plovers, turn-stones, gulls, terns, storks, herons and much much more here until a few years ago. The local people even talk about flamingos visiting the estuary.
The loss of Purathur-Ponnani estuary is a typical example of environmental devastation done in the name of development. It is a serious crime against nature and culture, against the environment and human beings at the same time. The people whose public revenue is utilized for all this “development” are the least benefited. The contractors, engineers and political mediators benefit and thrive on public fund. The extremely marginalized and impoverished people living on the periphery of the river are loosing their coconut palms, precious land and even little huts and homes due to erosion.
The suffering of the migratory birds is a sign. For what befalls on earth today will befall on her children tomorrow, as the chief of Seattle says. The eco-blind encroaching development has already affected the weaker and vulnerable human sections in the region who live on the edge of the land and water. Tomorrow it is going to touch the middlemen and middle classes and the developmental fanatics who are playing a safe game in the present by vampiring on public fund and natural resources. Unfortunately our media and academia are monopolized by people from this traditional safe upper middle strata of the undead.