Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

History that cannot be repeated

The photo is that of winter maize being grown on the silt deposited on its banks by the Narmada river during the monsoons some twelve years back. The adivasis of Bhitada village in Jhabua district on the banks of the Narmada used to ingeniously draw water by gravity from a stream flowing into it to irrigate this silt and grow the maize. Unfortunately this is no more possible because the area has been submerged by the Sardar Sarovar dam. The system of water harvesting and irrigation called the "paat" is an interesting one in which the hilly stream is bunded at a point about one kilometer upstream of its confluence with the Narmada and then the water is guided into a channel that slopes less steeply than the stream bed. Thus after one kilometer the channel is at a height above the stream bed and can irrigate the silt on the banks which is at a height that is reached by the river only in the monsoons and becomes exposed in winter.
This system of irrigation used to be prevalent all over the hilly areas near the Narmada but has now begun falling into decay. Primarily because bunding the streams and then maintaining the channels require a community effort and with the introduction of motorised water drawal systems and a spreading market economy individualism in irrigation has become the order of the day. Thus a communitarian and environmentally more sustainable irrigation system has been jettisoned for one that is socially and environmentally harmful.

11 comments:

anish said...

who will remember these things? 'the end of living... the beginning of survival' as that red indian chief - Chief Seattle once said. makes me sad.
You must have seen anil agarwal's book on traditional water harvesting systems. A very good collection of diff methods used by people all around india.

Rahul Banerjee said...

yes "dying wisdom" is the name of the book and it is available from the centre for science and environment. i had initially done an article on this paat system that was first published in down to earth and then later in dying wisdom. a friend of mine in the states wanted to know more about this system and that is how i came to write this post. interestingly i did some more research later to find out what is the state of the paat system and to my surprise i found that it has revived again. the reason is that the supply of electricity in rural areas has become erratic and costly and so also has the supply of diesel. so it has once again become profitable to use the paat instead as it costs only communitarian labour which is always cheap! this means that as artificial energy becomes more and more expensive and unreliable with time people will switch back to labour intensive lifestlyes.

narendra patil said...

Thanks for the interesting postings from Central India. It is heartening to know that History is repeating itself and that the old wisdom may after all find conditions for revival. In general can such spontaneous recovery be a reason for hope? Do you see sufficient signs of 'natural intelligence' of this kind for us not to panic in the context of man-resource relation?

Rahul Banerjee said...

one has to believe that humans will one day realise the folly of their urge to gain mastery over nature and follow the adivasis in living in accordance with it. the mesmerising power of television is the single most pernicious influence against this reversal to a more environment friendly lifestyle. the inane frivolity of instant consumption and pleasure that is spread by it day in and day out is preventing us from thinking seriously about surviving in the long run.

anish said...

In Thane, taangaas are becoming popular again.. because of traffic jams, people are tired of buses and autos..
:)

Rahul Banerjee said...

but are they tired of cars and mobikes also? it is more these than buses and autos that are contributing to traffic congestion in cities. let us hope that the return of taangas in thane will lead to the beginning of the reversal from modern development!

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Rahul Banerjee said...

now even blogs like this deeply anti-consumerist one of mine are getting spammed! just goes to show how powerful consumerism has become.

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Raheema said...

You give us all a wry sense of hope.Have a very hopeful new year!
Love and prayers to you and your family!

Rahul Banerjee said...

the bombarding by spammers continues. money has come to dominate our minds these days. raheema hope is all we have left under the circumstances because a rational analysis tends to lead one to the gloomy conclusion that we are all headed for perdition! the protests against the exploitation of humans and environment too seem to manifest themselves in destructively violent ways.