It took me almost 40 years to discover the most astonishing place I have ever been to, and it was lying  there … right under my nose !
I have passed it by a million times and always turned my nose up at it, unable to bear the smell and the debris floating on the river.
However, when I turned forty four and losing more than just my hair, I discovered the joy of rowing .

Gliding past the bridges of  the Adyar on our racing sculls, I enter a world of wild, yet tranquil beauty. The Theosophical Society on one side and the island on the other, with fish jumping out of the river into our boats; Like some magical, lost kingdom, right in the heart of the city !

We row all the way to the broken bridge and back. Watching the birds in their hundreds roosting along the banks. And on days when  we have dallied a bit and the sun is going down, we watch the fruit bats over TS in their thousands, venturing out on their nightly sorties! Or catch the eerie call of the fox or a glimpse of spotted deer.

But a pall of gloom hangs over this magical place. The TN government with its Adyar Poonga plans have declared this an ‘Eco Creek’. The same government also plans to build an elevated corridor across the broken bridge. If this is allowed to happen, one of the most sacred places in the city will become  just a memory that some of us will cherish !

So how do you get there?

You’ll have to row under the  bridges of Adyar with me!

Not so gently, I’m afraid.

Or walk Northward from Elliot’s beach, along the shore, till you reach the Broken Bridge.

And how can you help ?

Join ROB and help some Mangrove saplings.
And strengthen the movement against the Elevated corridor .

Krishnamohan Ramachandran,

ROB

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Wondering what I am talking about? Welcome to the world of professional cleaners. They are nothing but the crabs that inhabit the broken bridge region. Working like soldiers day and night, they ensure that the place is clean, just because they love dirt. These organisms are known as Detrivores, meaning detritus feeders (dead organic matter).

One fine Sunday evening, I was clearing the plastics near the baby mangroves and to my surprise, I saw a “Red hermit crab” running across. When I closely examined the crab, I found that it was wearing a gastropod shell. Hermit crabs fight for gastropod shells which they consider as their home. Bingo! Next I saw the ever waving crabs, known as Fiddler crab. These fellows are very interesting and they are more commonly found in estuarine environments. They have their own burrows; they keep waving their claws every now and then. One might think they are retards because they keep inviting you to their burrows without even considering your size, it seems like that. There is also miniature Mud crab or Mangrove crab, which live in this ecosystem. No harm in playing with them when are small but once they grow, they become huge. If handled improperly, they can deliver a deadly bite with their claws. Mud crabs can grow up to the size of a tender coconut (Scylla serrata)

I was delighted to learn about the interactions. It is hard to believe that animals are surviving in these regions where pollution shows its real face. As a marine biology student I have been trained to assess a given ecosystem simply by looking at the flora and fauna and the interactions between them. This looks promising. If we keep cleaning the place to facilitate the growth of the mangroves, not only are the mangroves benefitted, but also these little creatures. We are not only reclaiming a lost ecosystem but also making it sustainable for the years to come.

Links

· Mud crab – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scylla_serrata

· Fiddler crab – http://www.fiddlercrab.info/

· Gastropods – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastropod_shell

A hermit crab

Fiddler CrabFiddler crab

Mud CrabMud crab

—-

Rahul, ROB

Editor’s Note – Rahul is a student of Marine Studies at MCC, doing his masters. He’s also our local expert on all things aquatic.

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Adopt A Baby

February 21, 2010

You know how new moms are. New dads too. But more so new moms. They can’t stop talking about their babies. So please bear with us, while we hold forth for just a few more months about our new babies. The mangroves near Broken Bridge, I mean. Today, they are all of 21 days old. They’re looking good, despite the unhealthy load of trash that is threatening to suffocate them.

Just three days back, I was at Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering at the inauguration of their environment club called CARE. Across the road from the low-key and very unlikely but pleasant architecture of this college is the Chembarambakkam Eri (lake). It is the spillover from this lake that makes the Adyar River that empties into the Bay of Bengal at Broken Bridge. The trash thrown along the winding river’s watershed finds its way through streams and canals and nullahs into the river, and eventually ends up along the river banks. A lot of what doesn’t dot the banks of the river upstream ends up near the Broken Bridge.

Today, five enthusiastic ROB volunteers (all new moms and dads of the mangroves) — ranging in age from 10 to 45 — did a perfunctory clean-up of the Broken Bridge shores. They collected four bags of trash (thermocol and slippers, carrybags and old clothes) in less than an hour before realising that they were out of their depth. More people, more trash bags and more gloves were needed.

Now we have an appeal. Any body wanting to be a mangrove parent can be part of the regular clean-up every Sunday between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. Garbage bags and gloves will be provided. Come clean up some trash. Adopt a baby mangrove. See it grow to adulthood. After all, all the trash comes from upstream, and we all live upstream.

Check the website for updates. But this much is set. Every Sunday, at least a few of us will be there at Broken Bridge cleaning up between 4.30 and 6.30 p.m. Spread the word. There are many mangroves waiting to be adopted.

Nityanand Jayaraman

ROB