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.

Monday, October 11, 2010

From a River to a Lake

One of the greatest tragedies in recent years is the conversion of the Narmada River upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam into a lake. The Narmada is the only non snow fed river in India that is still perennial due to ground water return flow in the non monsoon months. This is made possible by the densely forested upper catchments of the basin. Thus even in summer the river used to flow with large amounts of water and farmers would take a crop of maize with this water as seen in the picture below.
Walking along the banks of the river used to be a pleasure but now this is an impossibility as the paths have all been submerged. Bathing is also now dangerous as the conversion of the river into a lake has led to its becoming heavily populated with crocodiles who lie in wait for an unsuspecting swimmer! Goats and cattle are regularly pulled under. Travel along the river has now to be by motor boats. The poor adivasis cannot afford expensive motor boats so some of them have got the rejected boats from the condemned ships that are brought for breaking to the ship yard at Alang in Gujarat. Kakrana village is now a veritable harbour as there are always a few boats anchored there as shown below and on the weekly market days it becomes like a busy port.
A corollary to the submergence of their lands is that many farmers have now been forced to do fishing to supplement their livelihoods and both men and women take part in this. The implements and boats are both makeshift and bring in subsistence catches. The old woman in the picture below is using a raft and a simple net to catch fish.
The disruption of livelihoods and the environment through the building of large dams is an integral part of modern industrial development and its profligate use of water. There are some people like those in the village of Anjanbara who have fought a valiant battle that is still continuing over the past two and a half decades to bring some sense into the heads of the powers that be regarding sustainable water resource management. These people still cling to the banks of the river living in their huts as in the picture below. One can only admire their courage and raise a toast to their dour perseverence as part of the celebration of water for Blog Action Day this year.
The natural process of water management is that of recharge into groundwater aquifers through forests. The progressive decimation of forests due to industrial and agricultural development and the simultaneous extraction of groundwater in large quantities has led to a crisis in water availability and big dams have only added to this problem.


Vetrimagal said...

This so thought provoking!. Thanks.

Rahul Banerjee said...

If only it provoked the thoughts of the powers that be who are in charge of deciding development policies. Water management has become a critical issue and yet there is little sense in those charged with this responsibility at the national and global levels.