Waterbodies are our lifeblood

A friend, Jose, and I had a telephone conversation during the cyclone Tauktae last year. The topic of conversation was climate change and the environment and the human interactions that contribute to it to some extent. We can no longer stand idly by and watch the system of building concrete buildings over streams, ponds, fields, swamps, lakes and rivers. We must do something because it will lead to our destruction. The discussion went on to say that we could start with a short documentary to make people aware and seek the help of some photographer friends. 

Vypeen Island

It is Vypeen. The most densely populated island in Asia. Heaven between the lake and the sea. Waterbodies were the lifeblood of this coast. The safety of coastal dwellers depends on the protection of their local drainage.

About four and a half decades ago, there were more ponds and wells on the shores of the Vypin, which is about twenty-eight kilometres long and an average of two and a half kilometres wide. Like the veins and arteries in our body, many streams, small and large, flowed through and across the island. Through them, we irrigated our crops and distributed all the crops to different countries. The flood of 1924, which we have mentioned in the legends of our progenitors, did not cause any significant damage on the banks of the Vypeen. Floodwaters inundated coastal and coastal areas and the central part of the island. Not even a speck of water disturbed us at that flood. 

That is history. For us, it is an ancient legend. As time went on, we moved from joint families to nuclear families. Hundreds and thousands of new houses were erected all over the island. Ponds, streams, fields, swamps, and mangroves all gradually became memories. There is no need for a flood today, even if it rains heavily, the raging waters will flood our backyards and homes like uninvited guests.

Today, most of the island’s panchayats have regular monsoon camps. One has to look back at the memories of our ancestors to see how long it has been since. Where did we go wrong? Where did the water in our streams go? Who blocked it? Were those responsible watching when someone was blocking them?

Parents tell their children not to play with fire. But truth is that water has more power than fire. Whatever a great fire will surrender before the waters. We play with water that is stronger than fire. When we obstruct the flow of a small stream or fill a pond, we endanger the safety of our lives. By flooding the lake and the field, we are inviting a catastrophic flood. It’s may not going to come soon, it will probably come once to wipe out our posterity, why should we sow the seeds for such a catastrophe?

We need to restore the flow of water in the streams. We must be careful to keep the existing streams and their currents intact. This should become a popular movement. If we realize that we are the only ones who can save us, we can fight for security as a single society.

By Thomas

Thomas is the founding secretary of grassroute. He lives in Kochi, India.