By Ajanta Dey
Working on landscape ecology, this I find is an amazing gift of nature. They live in communities, called Mangals; they enjoy space in accretion lands – again they stand so closely, if threatened, that not a single sun’s ray can pass them and reach the ground, that’s in the erosion belts. The adaptation from roots to stem, leaves, diversity keeps you awed. It’s hue in March can beat the fall colours of Vermont. The magic continues- chitinous crabs, flocking fishes, beaming birds, delicate deer and tempered tigers – all in one ecological landscape. I am fortunate to work in Sundarbans, could experience through my work assignments the mangroves in Kutch of Gujrat, Bhittarkanika of Orissa, the most diverse mangrove stretches of Indonesia and even the Everglades in Florida. I was fortunate to be introduced to mangroves by a great teacher Late Dr L K Banerjee and to have interacted with Late Dr Kumud Ranjan Naskar – the stalwarts in the field.
However mangroves are under huge stress; the prawn lovers mind your taste buds and check its origin. Ask your seller, is it by destroying mangroves? The latter is the sentinel of the coast- the only natural warrior against sea level rise and changing climate, generating economic resources worth billions. We are destroying them – fishery encroachments (yielding prawns) are major threat. Dams in upper reaches of the river restrict the critical minimal inflow of fresh water that supports the unique ecosystem in these brackish zones where sweet water readily makes friendship with saline waters of the sea and oceans. Besides grazing, fuelwood collection, agricultural land conversion, pesticide usage, easy garbage disposal… and no end to it. Few Homo sapiens who believe in mangrove mania, let’s sing loud with Pete Seegdr – “When will you ever learn, when will you ever learn?”