Vikas, son of Prasanna, is in 5th grade at Sishya School and loves wild life
in general, birds in particular, and aspires to meet Sir David
Attenborough. His favorite school subjects are Geography, Science,
Language, and Math.
I went to Pichavaram mangrove forest on the 5th of September 2009. Pichavaram is about 14 kms from Chidambaram, in the Cuddalore district, 240 km south of Chennai, where I live.
Much before my journey could begin, I was thrilled, as my mind raced with pictures and scenes of mudskippers, shells, crabs, fiddler crabs, clams–last but not least–the mangrove Pitta. The rich biodiversity and the wetland / mangrove ecosystem is home to creatures both big and small. The undisturbed balance between nature and the ecosystem that it supports makes this place a paradise on earth.
Pichavaram is the world’s second largest mangrove forest. There are more than 428 waterways leading to the sea, and very few of them have been navigated by man. Walking across the water is possible, but only within predefined routes, as the depths of some of these waterways are said to be unfathomable. They are to be ventured only when local guides are available. It’s very dangerous, and strongly not recommended, to venture without a guide. Very few people know of the existence of these places, and far fewer ever visit them. Nowhere else in the Indian subcontinent will you encounter an ecosystem as unique as that found in Pichavaram.
I also had a sense of pride because I am from Tamil Nadu [the state where Pichavaram is located]. The world’s largest mangrove, Sunderbans, is shared between India and Bangladesh.
We reached Pichavaram at 3PM and got to stay till 6PM. We took a rowboat, for this is the only mode of safe and secure transport. Even had we taken a speedboat, the engine would have had to have been shut off–the roots and weeds would damage the blades of the motorboat. What I saw in front of me was more than realistic–a thick mangrove forest. As we went in further, we were able to hear bird calls. I got to see Little Green Heron–not one or two, but five of them– Pied Kingfisher, Small Blue Kingfisher, and Brahminy Kite, also known as the Garudan.
Honestly, I didn’t want to leave the place! But I had no choice: I left with heavy heart and fond memories.
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I have learnt in my Geography class that mangroves are the first major line of defense from high tidal waves like tsunamis. It seems that during the 2004 earthquake in Indonesia [Banda Ache], the Pichavaram mangrove forest reduced the impact of the tsunami in the Cuddalore district in two ways: 1)The velocity of the tsunami water was greatly reduced after it entered into the mangroves, due to friction created by the thick mangrove forest, and
2) The volume of water was greatly reduced as tsunami water, after entering into the mangroves, was distributed to all the canals and creeks that are present throughout the forest.
The boat man said, “We saved the Mangroves by conserving them and protecting them. On the day of the Tsunami, Dec 26th2004, the Pichavaram mangroves saves many fishermen’s lives.”
The practical knowledge from the boatman, and my personal experience at Pichavaram, have given me a sense of responsibility, an awareness of where I live, and a respect for the place–not just where I reside, but where I rest …