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 !! .