The death of an ‘Eco system’


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term ecosystem refers to the combined physical and biological components of an environment. An ecosystem is generally an area within the natural environment in which physical (abiotic) factors of the environment, such as rocks and soil, function together along with interdependent (biotic) organisms, such as plants and animals, within the same habitat. Ecosystems can be permanent or temporary. Ecosystems usually form a number of food webs.

So what does ‘Ecosystem’ mean to you ….to us …HUMAN BEINGS ??? And how does it affect us ?? OR ……Does it ??

Last year, I took part  in the HSBC Bird Race , Mumbai Chapter , and it started with a ‘minute silence ‘ , for the untimely death of ‘URAN – A Birding Hotspot of Mumbai ‘ ..of India . A place which gave shelter to more than 300 species of birds , mammals like wolf , hares ,foxes and many others . It also gave us, HUMANS , shelter , a place to develop , a great port ‘JNPT’ . IT was a true ‘ECOSYSTEM’ , to the truest sense of the word !!! Because it gave us a place in its scheme of things . Little did it know , that the inclusion of this ‘ONE SPECIES ‘ would turn out to be carcinogenic and sound the death knell for all the other hundreds that were a part of it .

My association with Uran began back on December 23rd 2006 when Krishnan V, took me out for a birding trip to the place . I used to stay in Pune then, and I used to wonder where the Mumbai birders went for birding .I remember my first visit in the winter , the roads were narrow and the early morning mist and the dark skies at 5.30 am , saw the increasing serpentine queues of loaded trucks making their way to JNPT . There was no super wide roads then and the dusty roads did bother you . We reached Uran by 6.15 am and the birding started right near the school on the main road . The stretch near the school would be home to munias , stonechats , bee eaters . Further down, the long road leading to the JNPT police station was a treat to watch on both sides . Flamingoes, Redshanks , Terns , Open billed storks, Eurasian Spoonbills, Shovelers , Shelducks , Herons , Egrets , Stilts ……….the list was endless !!!!! I still remember the first action shot I had got there !!

It was just the start of a great friendship . My respect for the place just went up exponentially . It was one of the few places which has delivered more than I expected . It was in a sense an ‘Oasis ‘ in the concrete jungle .

My association with the place continued . Whenever I used to visit Mumbai , I always used to have time for a trip to my favourite haunt – Uran . I relocated to Mumbai in November 2007 , and my visits became a weekly affair . The fact was that the place was magical and difficult for any other place nearby to match it in terms of the species , one could find .

Getting to Uran became easier and easier with the huge highways that were getting built . I was impressed by the balanced development that was taking place . All the while I thought that this was just to ensure proper connectivity between JNPT and the Mumbai city . It never dawned that destruction of the habitat would be a package deal !!

All was well till about November 2009 . We used to hear about the propsed SEZ in Uran in ‘forwards’ and from some people . There was a nagging thought that Uran in the present form would last ‘maybe’ for another 2-3 yrs . Time enough for us to move …maybe meet the ‘right’ people …make the ‘right noise’ and try and save this wealth .

The general feeling about the horizon of 2-3 yrs stemmed from the fact that we are used to the slowness of work at the government level . Files takes days and sometimes weeks to move from one table to another . Nothing ever gets done without a mnimum of 2-3 visits . Also the setbacks in Nadigram and other SEZ venues were a benchmark . Little did we know that the SEZ brigade had devised a formula to ensure that there were no hiccups of any kind to the work . Imagine 4000 hectares of land to be filled and flattened . The fills would range from 2-4 ft . Imagine the quantum of sand/mud needed to do that . A 2-3 year horizon was the fastest we could have imagined .

I visited Uran in October 2009 and there were a few trucks carrying mud and doing the land fill work esp near the temple at the entry of Uran . My next visit to Uran in November 2009 , a mere 26 days apart shocked me !!! I was in tears at the destruction which was in front of me . In 26 days flat the whole of the marshy land in front of the JNPT was FLAT . The heart of URAN was gone ! There were no birds in sight . An ecosysytem was brutally murdered .

There were some patches near the main highway where the birds ahd taken refuge . Even in its deathbed , Uran continued to bless me with images of a Bluethroat , a common kestrel on the ground . My first sighting of a Short eared Owl on the HSBC bird Race day . While there is grief and anger at the way we responded to the SOS from Uran , there is just a prayer that we are able to save some thousands of oasis in and around Mumbai . Right now , places like Karnala Bird Sanctuary ( widening of the Goa Highway ), mangroves across the state are vanishing . There is a huge demand for sand in Mumbai for construction of buildings and they are sourced by illegal dredging all along the coast . The will to save natural resources seems to be the least in Maharastra . The most recent example is the mining licences given to the mining barons in the forest rich areas of Sindhudurg.
While this rut is a national phenomena ,states like Goa and Kerala seem more aware and willing to save natural resources , mainly because the population at large is more informed and aware .

One very interesting video on the conservation efforts on and the repurcusion of bad implementation has made a impact on me . It is by Romulus Whitaker and the video is embeded here .

Till there is life , there is always hope , and I just hope that people do wake up to the fact about development that natural wealth is the only wealth that will make the future generations feel proud about the heritage we will leave them with .
Hope such golden mornings will not be lost in the time to come ! AMEN !! .

16 thoughts on “The death of an ‘Eco system’”

  1. Vishal Deshmukh

    Location: Pune, Maharashtra

    I am saddened… when do we see hope?
    Very disheartening to read about death of URAN. Similar thing is also happening here at Pashan Lake, where some mindless and vision-less beautification work is destroying the natural contours of the lake on one hand and unchecked fishing and hunting on the other. I see the same fate crawling to Pashan as it happened in case of URAN. There is no hope coming out of this man-nature conflict. Its just becoming complexer by the day.

  2. Dear Rakesh

    Its really disheartening to see so many ecosystems just vanish in the name of Un sustainable development .The Human race is in the brink of collapse which I am sure many understand and then too do not act responsibly .There needs to be a certain change in outlookimmediately . I may add that schools need to take up subjects like consevation and Better Living rather than unwanted subjects to keep the Human race awake and alive

  3. Very well written article…with the current unsustainable population growth and the priorities that we as humans teach our kids…things look pretty bleak for mother nature…
    We have gone way too ahead on the path of destruction…there is no turning back…

  4. Well written article on the sad state of affairs where the wilderness counts for nothing. This is true even in the remote corner of this country that I live in.

  5. navin dutt
    to me

    Dear Rakesh,
    Never tire of looking at your snaps. They are mindblowing. World class actually
    keep it up
    warm regards

  6. Sanjeev Kumar
    to me

    Dear Rakesh,
    I frequently tell my friends who suggest education and awareness should recieve priority in addressing conservation issues, that there will probably be nothing to conserve by the time our public became educated and aware. The rapidity with which Uran has been affected is a case in point.

    I have immensly enjoyed your photographs on INW and I know for a fact that you have a deep passion for nature. When people like you take lead and show the way, our normaly phlegmatic public will follow. I hope our Environment minister gets to read your article….perhaps you can email it to him if you already have not done yet.
    Warm regards
    Sanjeev Kumar S.R

  7. Hi Rakesh,

    Uran’s fate is being replicated all over the country. The ex-garden city of Bangalore is being completely shorn of its trees thanks to road-widening, the Metro, and multistoreyed apartment complexes /malls mushrooming all over the place. Bangalore’s lakes are also up for ‘development’ – a recent casualty being the tiny Komaghatta lake where we would all go to see the yellow bittern. A part of the Daroji bear sanctuary near Hampi is going to be taken over by a steel plant.

    I’d like to share your write-up on my Facebook page…


    1. Thanx for visiting Uma . My first tryst with such destruction was ‘Hebbal Lake’ in Bangalore , which was to be ‘beautified’ !! I feel more than strong laws , a sensitised outlook towards our environs and awareness can only be the medicine for such mindless acts of greed . Please do share this link . I would be happy that more and more people read this and beacome more aware about the natural wealth in their surroundings .

  8. Sivakumar V K

    Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:35 pm

    Death of Ecosystem
    Dear Sir
    It is an extremely a sad news to hear.
    It happens at all parts of the country and nature cannot have powerful lobbies.It is also unfortunate that common people have scant respect for all ecosystems ( both educated and others)
    Recently a tank near Coimbatore (Sulur) is cleared for water sports and recreation and the place is one of the very few lakes that still gets a large number of resident and migratory birds from Pelican,Painted stork to little grebe and scores of ground birds.An active forum is present there and have vociferously made their protest.But authorities are keen it implementing and all formalities completed and trees have been removed.Unfortunate enough most of the public want to have water sport and a theme park nearer to city than a good environment.
    With regards
    Yours sincerely
    Sivakumar V K

  9. Rakesh

    Yes, I agree with you completely on this. In the name of technology and advancement and development India is being blindly exploited and this is going to happen to other areas too, viz, talawe, airoli, and other areas where we go frequently for birding.. I still cannot get over the shock and dismay when I first saw the Uran landscape with not a single plant left during the last HSBC Bird Race… and the destruction continues…

  10. i study in kharghar, everyday while travelling from the train, i look out at the mangroves across kharghar station stretching all the way to uran tekdi, to think that all of it will be gone even before newbies like us discover it, it’s depressing. with the airport coming up, the booms of a plane taking off will surely be heard till karnala, scaring away the true fliers. all in the name of development

  11. Uran was a second home to me, my visits to this home were numerous as anyone would visit his/ her second home.

    New Bombay region is developing so fast that we all nature lovers could not save Uran from so called developments. Although the efforts are being made now result of which high level ministers visiting the area, but the paradise is lost…..we may regain part of it or nothing.

    Now the efforts should be to save remaining low lying areas of Uran and other places too. I hope we learn from this lesson.



  12. Re: The death of an ecosystem
    by ebkw on Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:56 pm

    The loss of these special areas is heartbreaking to hear about. I am in the process of fighting for a tiny area, in comparison. It will be a loss, none-the-less.
    Eleanor Kee Wellman,, Blog at: keewellman.wordpress.comebkw

    Location: Bala, Ontario, Canada

  13. Re: The death of an ecosystem
    by Leo Keeler on Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:09 am


    Thank you for posting your thoughts and dismay at the loss of a special place to land developers.
    There are any small treasures such as you have found that are slowly disappearing due to land developments and our growing population. Politics plays a major role in these losses, mainly due to politicians not realizing what is being lost and it’s value to people using the area.

    Gathering enough people to speak up about special areas is a difficult task. I know from two major experiences I’ve had. But photography, especially great photography such as yours, can make the difference. If the people of the area speak out, the development plans may be altered to place special protections for these special areas, even though development occurs around them.

    The International League of Conservation Photographers have a process referred to as a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) where they get well know photographers and writers to visit an area and document the values being lost. That process has resulted in establishing new conservation areas in the US, Mexico, Canada, New Guinea Africa, and Chile. Here is a link to the ILCP RAVE page:

    The ILCP may help directly by holding a rave when notified of threats to special areas, or they may help by advising leaders at the local level.

    Change is inevitable, how we manage it will tell how much society cares.
    Fellow Member International League of Conservation Photographers, North American Nature Photographers, Past President of Friends of McNeil River
    Leo Keeler
    Location: Emigrant, Montana

  14. by pleverington on Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:38 am

    We have to buy the land before they can get their hands on it first. In this day and age our societal system is one based on consumerism. It’s wonderful at times and it’s a detriment at others. It has zero sympathy for nature unless somehow that can make it money. Once and a while people rule, but the game really is to use money to buy up the land in order to save it. Sometimes sellers are very sympathetic to those who want to preserve their land and will sell for a lesser ammount than the highest bidder because they have an emotional attachment to the land and wish to see it not destroyed.

    Elect only those politicians sympathetic to the cause. Get areas made into parks and preserves. Learn how to initiate the process to get something going in that direction.

    Very soon on this planet everything will be a battle, and when people demand land and resources, natural areas will go up on the auction block. I won’t see it too much in my lifetime but I fear seriously that soon natural areas will be tiny little islands harboring only the hardiest species and only that with protection and management.

    To me it’s one more representation of human arrogance. Nothing matters as much as what people need or want. Animals and nature have no soverign rights under our rule–only those that we give them or allow them to have. I’m of the mind that only a change of philosophy big time can change all that–but how impossible would that be I ask?

    “It’s a monster on the loose and it’s got our head into the noose”

    Paul Leverington
    “A great image is one that is created, not one that is made”pleverington

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