River Manjeswar meets the Arabian sea at Manjeswaram estuary between Bengara and Manjeswaram. Once it was a thriving port town and attracted many cultures and people to its beautiful banks. The Arabs, Jains and Konkan Brahmans and Baniyas came and settled in this little cosmopolitan town and made it truly multi-cultural. Many Jain Bastis and temples and old buildings still survive along its old streets. The river mouth is the sight of an ancient dismantled stone temple and a small fish landing centre now. I visited the place yesterday at noon (Friday, 24 Dec. 2010) with Mr Satheesh K V.
The place is rich with aquatic and avian life. Shore birds and waders are abundant here. We saw plenty of Egrets, Pond Herons and Reef Egrets. Green and Red Shanks were active inside the estuary as well as on the sea shore. On the southern bank Satheesh spotted more than 200 Sand plovers playing with the waves.
In the morning at Kumbala estuary we saw a small group of around 20 Open-bill Storks perched on the mangroves to the east of the highway. At the estuary and near the river mouth we could see more than 1000 seagulls. The mixed flock included Black/Brown Headed Gulls and Lesser Crested Terns. A group of 10 Eurasian Curlews were also seen.
Fishing inside and around the estuaries has almost ceased now because of pollution, waste dumping and illegal sand mining. Plastic wastes and toxic residues brought by the river are also chocking the precious ecosystem.
River Shiriya and a few more minor rivers come together to form the Kumbala estuary some 10km north of Kasaragod town. It hosts a range of flora and fauna that are inevitable for the life of the local people here. The estuary has many types of mangroves and associated plants and attracts a lot of migrant and resident birds, fish and crustaceans. It is also the center of life for the local fisher folks who use it for their survival.
But unfortunately lethal pollutants like Endosulphan and other deadly pesticide residues are slowly being deposited in these beautiful water-scapes. It would eventually kill the estuary and its ecosystem that supports millions of life forms including the local human population. I talked to a local fishing worker Ibrahim who said that the fish catch from coastal waters are on a gradual decline. Only big boats are able to produce profit now.
Mainstream media has recently reported the presence of Endosulfan in the waters of river Shiriya. It is so in the case of most of the other major rivers in Kasaragod which originate from the eastern hills, where the Plantation Corporation and other private interests use pesticides and even spray Endosulfan from air.
Today (28 Nov. 2010) I visited Kumbala estuary in the forenoon. A huge congregation of gulls welcomed me. The mangroved islets and sandy shingles were really beckoning. The flock of more than 500 seabirds included Brown-headed Gulls and Lesser Crested Terns. Their flight formations and landing were simply unforgettable.
Then I noticed the presence of Lesser Sand Plovers in the mudflats. A few Common Sandpipers and a lonely Pacific Golden Plover were also seen. Small Blue and Pied Kingfishers were also visible. In the sand bank near the mouth of the river were it joins the great Arabian Sea I saw a few Whimbrels and a Curlew. A few meters north some Red Shanks were also wading in knee deep waters.
In the early hours of the morning I was at the Mogral Puthur estuary a few miles south of Kumbala. This small estuary is also gifted with some mangroves and associated flora. I saw Green and Red Shanks there briskly in action in the light morning sun. I could also see a Little Heron, a few Red-wattled Lapwings, Lesser Sand Plovers, Pied and Small Blue Kingfishers, Common Sandpipers, Little Cormorants and Pond Herons there.
Kasargod district is gifted with most number of rivers and estuaries in Kerala. But all these invaluable natural resources vital for the sustenance of life here are under threat from pollution and illegal vested interests. Uncontrolled sand mining and extensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers are the real issues. Untreated waste water from industries and plastic wastes are also chocking the rivers and estuaries that are the filtering systems of nature. These important sites of biodiversity and ecological significance must be conserved for the welfare of the local people and the posterity. At least toiling people like Ibrahim must be able to live and support his family.