ROB has a 100 Babies

February 14, 2010

If you’re starved for good news, this blog is for you. In fact, this entry is dedicated to every one of you who participated in any way in the ROB-led clean-up of Besant Nagar, Urur Kuppam, Theosophical Society and Broken Bridge beaches. This is to let you know that each one of you is now a parent of more than a hundred babies. Yes. Read on.

Yesterday, I walked with a bunch of German social work students through Urur Kuppam to the Broken Bridge. They were visiting Chennai and had just finished an hour-long interaction with other youngsters from Chennai in our Collective’s office. Archana, Kau, Kitchi and Akila had just finished telling them about Reclaim Our Beaches and our elaborate beach clean-up program. As we hopped across the sewage cesspools and the rivulets of crap oozing their way along the sands, the Germans stared at us in disbelief. “Was this stretch part of your clean-up?” one asked.

It is difficult to appreciate the difference without a before-after picture. To us (those who had been part of the clean-up), the Urur Kuppam beach was definitely markedly cleaner, and Neel Metal had been doing a better-than-usual job of cleaning up the street here. For the first time since Neel Metal won the corporation contract three years ago, bins have been installed along the Urur Kuppam beach stretch. But to the Germans, it still looked filthy. The Theosophical Society beach was cleaner, but clearly the litter was coming in. Two fishermen who were pulling in a gillnet from the shore hauled in a rich harvest of plastic trash, and two mullets, even as we explained that it was a challenge to keep the beach clean.

Broken Bridge was a humbling sight. Despite our clean-up of 30 January, and the three days of mechanised clean-up by the Corporation prior to that, styrofoam, slippers and sundry other plastic trash still littered the beach. The stretches that were cleaned, especially the area near the bridge along the water’s edge, stuck out like a healthy thumb in a festering hand. And it is here that we saw the retribution for our labour — a subtle acknowledgement by Mother Nature that she liked the small gesture of ours in cleaning up.

There are more than a hundred small, new baby mangroves that have pushed forth their seedlings from the slush. The carpet of plastic trash had suffocated life beneath it. With the deadly carpet gone, nature had taken over once again. There are a hundred new reasons why we should continue to keep that place clean, and to work out ways to prevent it from getting dirty. Give it a year, and we guarantee you a patch of healthy mangroves where one could earlier only see the obnoxious styrofoam and slippers. One youngster from Reclaim Our Beaches had just explained to the Germans a little while ago that ROB intended to defeat the Elevated Expressway. What better way to defeat it than allowing the ecosensitive mangroves to return to the Broken Bridge.

Bringing back the mangroves to the Adyar River requires nothing more than just leaving the River alone. The hundred odd ROB babies are evidence enough. My wife calls them “Thank you bouquets” from the River to us. As a responsible parent, you owe your babies a visit. I’m sure you’ll understand if they can’t leave their place to visit you. If you get to Broken Bridge, walk beneath it. But tread carefully. And if possible, carry a sack and clean up whatever you can. Every sack counts. In early March, let’s have a celebration for the month-old babies.

Nityanand Jayaraman,

ROBber

Turtle Walks

January 16, 2010

So after much procrastination on my part I finally got down to writing a blog post!

Its 12 o’clock in the night and Neelankarai beach is eerily quiet.

The beach is so much more alive and happy at this time of the day, and its actually cold! Plastic bags flutter around in the breeze, leftover by the crowd that was probably here.

Anyway before I begin to ramble…Its turtle walking season again!

Hopefully some of you have been on a turtle walk. For those of you who haven’t, you’ve definitely missed out on something! 6 kilometres of walking on the cool wet sand and searching for turtle nests and hatchlings, a wildlife lovers paradise! I’ve always wanted to visit Gahirmatha in Orissa and watch the Arribada.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s when turtles mass nest on the beach! And by mass nesting I don’t mean a few, but hundreds and hundreds of turtles converging on the beach at the same time! Chennai has its own nesting sites all along its coast for the Olive Ridleys. We do get an occasional Green turtle too.

Sadly this year there have been numerous dead turtles washed up on the beaches. We even found a sperm whale last week!   Trawling and gill nets drown the unsuspecting creatures and wash them onto the shore. Hatchlings die of dehydration as soon as they are born because of the lights on the beaches that distract them from their goal – the sea.

What is the cause for all of this?  Who is responsible? It’s us! Every year they put up more lights on the beach for ‘safety’. More trawlers are sent out to the sea to fish, and more people come to the beaches and litter.

There is a solution to this just like most other problems : If you live near the sea switch off your lights from 12 to early morning during turtle nesting season (which is from January to April)! Clean up after you have fun at the beach! And don’t forget to use those trash cans! Only then will you be awe struck like I usually am when I go on a turtle walk or visit the hatchery.

Nothing beats watching turtle hatchlings emerge from their nests. They truly are magnificent creatures.

Anjana, ROB