Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dec 30, 2004; a post on; revisiting December 2004

Dec 30, 2004

We are faced today with the aftermath of what is possibly the biggest natural calamity in recorded history in the region. The trail of destruction and death left behind by the tsunami that hit India and other countries in the region is being brought home to us every day. As a nation we need to collectively rise to the ocassion.
Many would already be doing whatever they can to contribute to the efforts of reconstruction and rehabilitation. We would like to suggest a small effort that can be both symbolic as a gesture and meaningful in what it can contribute. Many people across the country would have planned to celebrate New Year's eve/day in different ways. In many cases this would mean a substantial amount of money would be spent as people celebrate to usher in the New Year - in private parties, clubs, hotels, etc. Can we pledge that this year, as a mark of respect and in solidarity to those affected, we shall not participate in any celebrations for the New Year. Instead, let us calculate what each would have spent on the celebrations, and make a contribution to an agency of her/his choice that is helping on the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts.
Also, let us collectively pledge that we will shun any display of ostentation to mark celebrations to usher in the New Year - something that has sadly become the hallmark of New Year revelries in many parts.
Further, can we also urge all public places which would go ahead and organise New Year eve celebrations, to donate 50% of the receipts to an agency of choice to support the relief efforts.
Can we also suggest that all entertainment channels on Television to donate 50% of their advertisement revenue received on 31st December for relief efforts.
This is a very small gesture, but can we not make it happen? Please forward this mail to all your contacts if you think such a gesture is meaningful.
(The above appeal has been initiated by friends in the Delhi Science Forum; we hope it will be owned by many others.)

Smitu Kothari

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dec 29, 2004; a post on; revisiting Dec 2004

Dec. 29, 2004

Dear Andamanicobar group,
 I only recently joined this group a few weeks ago, not dreaming of the disaster which would overtake the area of the islands, but with a general interest in conservation there. I am communications officer for the Society for Conservation Biology's Asian Section, so we have many members of our own society in southern India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia about whom we are anxious. Through these posts, I found myself drawn into your worries, fears, anger and sorrow, and have gotten to know you and these islands in a way I never imagined. 
I am writing from the other end of Asia (Israel) but the SCB network spans the continent, so I am forwarding any information (news, contacts) posted here to our own SCB Asia newslist for our members who may either need to know or want to help. We also have abou 60 Israelis in these islands, and of course many more in the disaster region as a whole. 
Yesterday Israel sent a complete hospital with medicines, materials and doctors to Sri Lanka (with whom we have no diplomatic relations) and they are on the ground there setting up facilities now. We are preparing more such missions, and there is a national drive to collect donations of relief supplies and money for the stricken areas. We area getting daily updates including what's happening in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, so I expect some of our relief help will come to these areas too. We are a small country and cannot do much but we have a lot of medical expertise especially with disaster situations, are quicker than lightening in emergencies, and can certainly help there. If you have suggestions I can relay them to the teams who are organizing the help here in Israel. 
Thanks for giving us a living, personal window on this part of the disaster area. There is no place so remote that our concern and our prayers cannot reach it, and sometimes we can do more than that. If you have anything you would like me to post for SCB Asia, please send it to or my address above, and I will be glad to relay it to our SCB list.

Dr. Linda Olsvig-Whittaker
Science and Conservation Division
Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority
3 Am Ve Olamo Street, Givat Shaul
Jerusalem 95463, Israel
Telephone: +972-2-5005444; Fax +972-2-6529232
Data service:
INNPPA website: <

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dec 29, 2004; a post on; revisiting December 2004

Dec 29, 2004

Andaman's aboriginals safe: Pranab

 [India News]: Kolkata, Dec 29 : Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that the aborigines in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, namely, Onges, Sentinel and Jarawa tribes are safe, contrary to reports appearing in a major daily that claimed that these tribal populations had more or less been wiped out.
Giving details of his visit to the devastated islands, Mukherjee said that the Ongi people had escaped the tsunami disaster as they were located on higher ground,. He, however, admitted that the Sentinelese and Jarawas had been affected, but not s severely as was being made out by reports.
Referring to the reports about the casualties suffered in the islands, Mukherjee said they were highly exaggerated, adding that a joint secretary from the Home Ministry has been asked to camp there to oversee relief and rehabilitation operations.
The islands consist of the Jarawas (Population of 266), Onges (Population 100), Shompens (population 250), Sentinelese (Population 100), Nicobarese and great Andamanese (Population 40) are the world's last aboriginal tribes.
A lot of confusion, however, persists about their whereabouts as there was no information about them for the past two days. (ANI)

With regards
Pulak Barua

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A two part interview in the Marathi environment magazine - Aaple Paryavaran (Our environment)

पंकज सेक्सारिया : एक संवेदनशील संशोधक

पंकज सेक्सारिया हे एक संशोधक, लेखक, फोटोग्राफर, अभ्यासक आणि पर्यावरणीय क्षेत्रातील सक्रीय कार्यकर्ते आहेत. पर्यावरण आणि वन्यजीव संवर्धनाच्या क्षेत्रात त्यांनी व्यापक स्वरूपाचे काम केले आहे, विशेष करून अंदमान आणि निकोबार बेटांच्या संबंधात. या बेटांसंबंधित विषयांवर ते १९९८ पासून इंग्रजी प्रसारमाध्यमांमध्ये नियमितपणे लिहित आहेत. त्यांनी या बेटांवर आधारित दोन ललितेतर पुस्तके Troubled Islands (2003; पत्रकार म्हणून त्यांनी लिहिलेल्या लेखांचा संग्रह) आणि The Jarawa Tribal Reserve Dossier: Cultural And Biological Diversity in the Andaman Islands (Jt.Editor 2010) ही लिहिली आहेत.
गेल्या १२ वर्षांपासून ते कल्पवृक्ष या पर्यावरण अॅक्शन ग्रुपशी जोडलेले आहेत. अंदमान आणि निकोबार बेटांमध्ये अजूनही असलेल्या समस्यांबद्दल त्यांना काळजी आहे आणि त्या सोडविण्यासाठी ते आपले व्यापक संशोधन, कायदेशीर हस्तक्षेप, प्रचार पत्रकारिता आणि आपल्या नेटवर्किंगद्वारे सतत प्रयत्न करत आहेत. त्यांनी आपली मास्टर्स डिग्री जामिया मिलीया इस्लामिया विद्यापीठ, नवी दिल्ली येथून पूर्ण केली आहे आणि सध्या ते मास्ट्रीच युनिव्हर्सिटी (Maastricht University, Netherlands), नेदरलँड्स येथून सायन्स, टेक्नोलॉजी अॅन्ड सोसल स्टडीज मध्ये पीएचडी करत आहेत.
नुकतीच अंदमान आणि निकोबार बेटांवर आधारित त्यांची एक कादंबरी “द लास्ट वेव्ह” हार्पर कॉलिन्स पब्लिशर्स, इंडिया कडून प्रकाशित करण्यात आली आहे. वास्तविकतेचा भक्कम पाया असलेल्या या कादंबरीला टीकाकारांकडून भरपूर प्रशंसा प्राप्त होत आहे आणि देशभरातील वाचकही तिच्या प्रेमात पडले आहेत. तर जाणून घेऊयात पंकज यांच्या प्रवासाविषयी आणि त्यांच्या कादंबरी विषयीही. 
१. मॅकेनिकल इंजिनिअरींगमध्ये पदवी प्राप्त केल्यानंतर पारंपारिक मार्गाने न जाता पदव्युत्तर शिक्षणासाठी तुम्ही मास कम्युनिकेशन या विषयाची निवड केली आणि नंतर तुम्ही पर्यावरण आणि वन्यजीवांसंबंधित विषयांकडे आकर्षित झालात, हे कसे?
To read the full interview visit :

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The story of the pink orchid - an extract from 'The Last Wave - An island novel'

THE LAST WAVE - An Island Novel

Chapter 16
Flower Power 

Pg 187-189

(The story of the pink orchid)

‘David must have told you about this. My work on PT had already begun by then – even before I discovered this report on this Canopy Lifting System.’
‘Oh! Sorry! The name’s a little complicated so I just made it easier – papilionanthe teres – PT – my orchid,’ he said with obvious pride. ‘It’s also called vanda teres, but I prefer to call it PT. See, flowers brought me to botany. Flowers fascinated me from childhood, and when I learnt that I could be forever in their company and also make a living, I knew exactly what I had to do with my life. With time, of course, my botanical horizons expanded, and I came to be interested in other aspects of plants that were equally fascinating. But, that’s another story. See . . . I first noticed PT on my second or perhaps third visit to the northern islands. I noticed the flower all along the Andaman Trunk Road from Port Blair right up to Mayabundar here. Those days, I used to come here for the routine field surveys that my office was conducting.’
He opened a photo album lying on his table and showed Harish the first picture. ‘A nice pretty pink. Beautiful flower, isn’t it? Like all orchids are. PT is very common. You can’t miss it. Along certain stretches of the Andaman Trunk Road, entire trees are covered in its pink hue. It was actually this profusion that first drew my attention to the flower. See,’ he closed the album and looked up at Harish, ‘there is one very important ecological characteristic of PT that is extremely relevant here. It needs to receive direct sunlight to bloom. Let alone the flower, even the plant will not grow in the shade. It’s out and out a sunlight-loving plant. It’s what can be called an ecological indicator.

‘On one of my following trips, this was a bus journey more than a year ago, I noticed something even more striking – something that really set me off. It was true that the flower could be seen all along, but there was also a very curious division along certain lengths of the Andaman Trunk Road. For long stretches, the flower was seen only on one side of the road. Forests on the other side were completely devoid of its pink beauty.
‘It was actually quite stark, two different worlds separated by only a ten-metre-wide tarred road. I looked at the Working Plans of the Forest Department, and should have I been surprised? The overlap was striking. Forests where I was seeing PT now had seen extensive timber extraction over the years. This might interest you – the other side of the road, where there wasn’t a sign of the flower – was the Jarawa Reserve, and there the Forest Department has never been allowed to enter. There seemed to be a clear connection between logging in the past and the pink flowers I was seeing. It sounds too easy, so simple, it’s almost bizarre. But it’s true – cent per cent true.
‘I then studied the Working Plan carefully and identified two different categories of land areas – one in Baratang, where the Forest Department had conducted large-scale logging operations, and the other inside the Jarawa Reserve, the untouched pristine, evergreen forests that once clothed every inch of these islands. I surveyed these patches and did a simple scientific exercise of assessing and estimating the presence of PT in each of them. The outcome was stunning.’
‘So,’ Harish asked, ‘maximum orchids in the extracted forests, and almost none in the unlogged forests?’
‘No. Not almost none. Absolutely none.’ SK stressed. ‘Not a single in the original, undisturbed forests. You’ve seen some of these forests now. The canopy of an unaltered rainforest closes above like an umbrella – not a scrap of light can get through. PT does not have a chance of establishing itself here. It never has and never will grow in an undisturbed forest in these islands. They wanted scientific evidence. Here it was. I then further refined my survey, and made it more complex to eliminate other factors that could be playing an influencing role. Another month of surveying in the same areas, and the same result. In such an enquiry, one can never say that such and such is the only reason, but it became clear that the most important influencing factor was the character of the forest. There could be no doubt about that.’

DEC 29, 2004, a post on; revisiting Dec 2004

Dec 29, 2004
Posted by Kalpavriksh office in Delhi

Apologies for cross postings. 
Better late then never, Govt works on new rules for coastal areas

CRZ: Disaster factored in, Swaminathan panel reviews laws flagrantly violated
Posted online: Wednesday, December 29, 2004 at 0142 hours IST

NEW DELHI, CHENNAI, DEC 28: It may be too early to look for a silver lining to the tsunami tragedy but this could very well be the first one: the disaster and its horrifying aftermath are being factored in by a high-powered scientific Government committee as it prepares a comprehensive review of regulations determining settlement and development along the country's 6,000-km coastline. 
This committee, headed by agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan, was set up in July this year to review existing Coastal Regulation Zone norms notified in 1991. Their final report is expected next month.
Nothing would have shown the enormity of their task than Sunday's disaster. For, the existing CRZ rules are almost always followed in the breach. Because they are flagrantly violated, the committee was asked to review it and now with the death toll-speculated at over 8,000 tonight-it's taking a whole new look.
The Coastal Regulation Zone norms of 1991 seek to regulate human activity within 500 m from the coast. It divides the entire coast into four zones depending on the density of population and the development already existing there.
In Zone 1 fall the most sensitive areas with mangroves and corals. Here, no development is allowed within 500 metres of the coast. Zone 2 is towns and cities where buildings are already touching the sea. Zone 3 includes undeveloped areas and tourist places where permission is allowed on a case-to-case basis in a band up to 200 m from the sea. Zone 4 is areas like Andamans and Lakshwadeep.
According to experts, if CRZ had been implemented in letter and spirit, there wouldn't have been so many people so close to the sea-unprotected, exposed to the waves. CRZ rules are also meant to ensure a ''natural line of defence''-mangroves, corals and sand dunes. ''Tsunamis have been rare but a wall of water hitting the coasts in the form of cyclones has always been a reality. The Swaminathan committee is going to keep all this in mind,'' said Prodipto Ghosh, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests.
''This event will not hasten anything. We want a solid, science-based report since the first time around, there was also a lot of shooting from the hip,'' he added.
CRZ norms have been so controversial that they have occupied many hours in high courts of every state with a coastline and the Supreme Court.
The Swaminathan committee will review the CRZ notification ''in the light of the findings and recommendation of all previous committees, judicial pronouncements, representation of stakeholders and interest groups.''
These groups include fisheries, tourism, harbours and port authorities. On the other side are NGOs who have been pointing at widescale violations, by private operators and state governments, making Indian coasts a veritable battleground.
Though Swaminathan is not ready with the report yet, he has indicated that there will be a plan to regenerate mangroves and natural sand dunes.
For example, the mangroves in Pichavaram and Muthupet region in Tamil Nadu acted as shields and protected traditional communities. But in Alappuzha and Kollam, where there is illegal sand mining, devastation has been more widespread.
CRZ has never really been implemented fully with violations beginning as soon as the notification became law. Construction was done in the ''no development zone'' and groundwater was illegally tapped especially by industries.
In 1994, the CRZ's most stringent norms were relaxed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in an amendment to the notification. The NGOs went to Court and it was restored. The states saw it as a Federal encroachment to their laws. They were to come out with their Coastal Management Plans which they delayed till the Supreme Court ordered them in 1996.
''Now most states including Tamil Nadu have submitted their plans but these take a long time to implement considering the scale of development that has already taken place,'' said Ghosh.
Lobbies have often fired from the shoulders of fisherfolk saying that CRZ prevents them from earning their livelihood. Now they have rallied behind the CRZ. ''We want it to be implemented properly with proper monitoring,'' said a spokesperson from International Collective for Fishworkers based in Chennai. Traditional coastal villages are allowed under CRZ.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dec 29, 2004; a post on; revisiting Dec 2004

Dec 29, 2004

Other than the single item sourced by Pankaj from the A&N admin website, there is nothing very new or useful on
However, there is a great deal of valuable information circulating in various mailing lists and websites, especially this one. Could we organize  it into an A&N tsunami blog or website? It would be a valuable resource for those looking for information and those wanting to help, especially since there are many well-wishers scattered all over the world. This could be a long term project, lasting as long as relief and rehabilitation efforts continue.
The fact is, most of us have no idea where meetings are being held, where  relief operations are being mounted, how to get to the islands, whom to  contact there, and so on. I find lots of such queries appearing in this  mailing list, and that's just from those who are already clued in.
Just to give you an instance of the appalling ignorance about A&N in the media and among the public, NDTV interviewed Dr.Lalji Singh (Director, Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Hyderabad) on the 8.30am news today, and the report stated that Shompens live on Car Nicobar. It had Dr.Singh saying that, since the island has been almost destroyed, "we should try to take them and put them on another island that is large enough to sustain them." This is the kind of misinformation that we really don't want  to be circulated, especially among the policy makers in Delhi.
We should be prepared for some knee-jerk reactions in the days ahead, and an  authoritative blog or website could help to mitigate the second wave of  destruction that will shortly be unleashed on the islands by well-intentioned but ill-informed mainlanders.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dec 29, 2004, a post on; revisiting Dec 2004

Dec 29, 2004

This is from
These appear to be the first news reports from the Central Nicobars.

3000 still missing in Andamans
December 28, 2004 12:23 IST

Aftershocks continued to rock the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on Tuesday where 3,000 people were killed and an equal number still missing after tsunami waves triggered by a massive undersea quake off Sumatra in Indonesia on Sunday hit the archipelago.

At least 3,000 people have been killed and another 3,000 are missing from all over the island. Deputy inspector general of police, Andaman and Nicobar, A N Basudev Rao, told PTI that the island received a series of aftershocks since last midnight.
Residents rushed out of their dwellings to open areas at 12.45pm and again at 4am on Tuesday fearing a repeat of Sunday's catastrophe.

Sea water was also on the rise in Little Andaman even as relief and rescue operations were on in full swing in the affected areas, including the worst-hit Car Nicobar. Quoting reports from Little Andaman, Rao said that 10,000 people have taken shelter atop a hill in the jungles in that area. Majority of the affected were from Car Nicobar and Nancowrie group of islands, he said. Full contact was yet to be established with the Nancowrie islands, he said.
Meanwhile, 152 tribals were rescued from Katchall in Nancowrie and taken to Camorta, while another 40 people were rescued in Kondul, he said. The island administration was facing a major problem in disposing bodies as they had to be collected from jungles and other far flung areas, he added.
© Copyright 2004 PTI.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dec 29, 2004; a post on; revisiting Dec. 2004

Dec 29, 2004
Posted by Pankaj Sekhsaria
Unprecedented Earthquake And Tidal Waves Hit Andamans And Nicobars (The official website of the A&N administration)

A severe earthquake was felt in Andaman and Nicobar Islands having epicentre at 3.7N and 95E off the island of Sumatra between 0630 to 0635 hrs in the morning on 26th December, 2004. The quake was followed by a few tremors subsequently also. Due to the high level of awareness amongst public, most of the people took precautions like coming out of the building and going to safe places immediately.
The severe earthquake was followed by high tidal waves which caused extensive damages in Port Blair harbour; Jetties at Aberdeen, Phoenix Bay, Junglighat and Haddo were flooded by tidal waters. Two boats sunk at the jetty before any measures could be taken. The employees of the Port Management Board, Directorate of Shipping Services, Andaman Harbour Works etc. swung into action immediately and evacuated the ships berthed at the jetties to anchorage to prevent damage. Nevertheless the Marine Dockyards were extensively damaged and four ships which were under servicing tilted and damaged extensively. Four persons were dead in Port Blair and its surroundings. About 100 people who were injured have been treated in the hospital.
Soon after the incident in the morning, Lt. Governor, Member of Parliament, Chairpersons of Zilla Parishad and Port Blair Municipal Council and senior officers of the Administration went around Port Blair to assess the damage. A crisis management meeting was held at 1130 hours at Raj Niwas and action points were drawn up to deal with the emergency on war-footing.
Lt. Governor, Member of Parliament, Commander-in-Chief of A&N Command visited Car Nicobar by Coast Guard aircraft in the afternoon and returned by 7.00 PM. 28 dead bodies were found around the Airport at Car Nicobar during their visit. The extent of damage, loss of life and property in Car Nicobar was unprecedented. Shri SA Awaradi, Director (TW) has been stationed at Car Nicobar to assist the Deputy Commissioner in organizing the relief work.
So far 73 people have died due to the quake. 65 lost their lives at Car Nicobar, 4 at Port Blair and 4 at Campbell Bay. The Control Room and telephone numbers at the Secretariat, Deputy Commissioner's Office, Police Department and Fire Brigade are as follows:
1.    Secretariat 233110/234087
2.    Deputy Commissioner's Office 231945/233089
3.    Inspector General of Police 100/232100/239693 FAX
4.    Fire Brigade No. 101

Public may contact for giving message or reports about enquiries and the help required.
Airport facilities and the runway were inspected in detail and cleared for operation of the Airport in the afternoon and Indian Airlines and Jet Airways flight operated between Kolkata/Chennai and Port Blair.
Shri Anshu Prakash, Development Commissioner attended the meeting of the Disaster Management Group of the Govt of India at New Delhi on the afternoon. Ministry of Home Affairs, Prime Minister's Office and the President of India's Office were informed. Cabinet Secretary Shri BK Chaturvedi spoke to the Chief Secretary and apprised himself about the unusual developments and assured about the support of the Union Government to the UT Administration in dealing with the situation.
Port Blair Municipal Council organized a large number of shelters to the people who were staying outside the houses. They were provided with food and water, etc. wherever possible. Non-Governmental organizations and public spirited citizens came forward and lent a helping hand in dealing with the crisis at different places in the temporary shelters.
The Disaster Management Centre of National Remote Sensing Agency in Hyderabad has been approached to give technical in puts and advice in the matter. The Administration has expressed its gratitude to the citizens who have courageously faced the situation and cooperated to deal with the crisis.
Information counters have been set up in the Directorate of Information, Publicity and Tourism to assist and give appropriate information to the tourists and the public.
The tidal waves receded and normalcy came to Port Blair sea in the afternoon. The ship MV 'Nancowry' will proceed to Chennai at 1200 hours from Chatham Wharf instead of 1600 hrs. as scheduled earlier.
MV 'Ramanujam', MV Rangat, MV Chouldhari, MV Jolly Buoy, which had been in the sea for inter-island trips were brought back with passengers safely to the Port Blair Harbour(Chatham wharf), which has been restored to operations.
Teams have been constituted comprising of senior officers of the Administration and doctors to go to Hut Bay, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay to provide relief and undertake rescue operations. Arrangements have been made to provide grains, food, water, clothes, tents, fuel and medical relief. The teams will leave by helicopter immediately. Moreover separate ships are being sent to Campbell Bay, Hut Bay and Car Nicobar to transport additional relief material and medicines.
The Member of Parliament has assured to donate Rs. 20 lakhs for the Lt. Governor's relief fund. Similarly Zilla Parishad is donating Rs 20 lakhs, Port Blair Municipal Corporation Rs. 5 lakhs, ANIIDCO Rs. 10 lakhs and the A & N Police Rs. 3 lakhs to the Lt. Governor's relief fund. The Administration also appeals to voluntary organisation, organisation from commerce and trade and non-government sector to donate funds to the LG relief fund. The donations can be made only to the LG's relief fund. No other private organisation is authorised to receive donations.
The Indian Airlines has decided to operate 3 flights from Kolkata and 2 flights from Chennai tomorrow for transportation of tourists from Port Blair. The President of India spoke to the Lt. Governor in the evening and assured all help required by the Islands.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A presentation on the A&N Islands, TISS Hyd, Jan 13th

Dear Friends (particularly those in Hyderabad, or visiting)

Making a presentation on the A&N Islands at TISS Hyderabad, Rajendranagar on Jan. 13, 4 pm. Please do come.

Details are as follows:

Tata Institute of Social Sciences Hyderabad Campus
Public Lecture:
'The Andaman & Nicobar - An island journey'
Speaker : Mr. Pankaj Sekhsaria

Abstract: Pankaj Sekhsaria will present an account of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands - the rich biodiversity, the mindsets and the development challenges - through 20 years of his engagement with and work in the islands. He will also present the trajectory, challenges and inspirations of how his island novel, 'The Last Wave', a story deeply embedded in the history, geography and ecology, came to be.
Dr. Nilanjana Ray will be in conservation with him.

Date and Time: Tuesday 13th January, 2015, 4 to 5pm
Venue: BA II Year Classroom, Sanakaran Block, Hyderabad

All are welcome.
Pankaj Sekhsaria is a researcher, writer, photographer, campaigner and academic. He has worked extensively in the field of environment and wildlife conservation with a particular focus on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He has been writing regularly on related issues for the English media since 1998, and is the author of two non-fiction books based on the islands: Troubled Islands (2003), a collection of his journalist writings, and The Jarawa Tribal Reserve Dossier: Cultural and biological diversity in the Andaman islands ( Jt. Editor, 2010).

Dec 28, 2004; a post on; revisiting the tsunami of Dec 2004

Dec 28, 2004

Dear Friends,
A very interesting and relevant mail.

From: Arunachalam Kumar
Subject: Whale suicides & earthquakes To: nathistory-india@Princeton.EDU

It is my observation, confirmed over the years, that mass suicides of whales and dolphins that occur sporadically all over the world, are in someway related to change and disturbances in the electromagnetic field coordinates and possible re-alignments of geotectonic plates thereof. Tracking the dates and plotting the locales of tremors and earthquakes, I am resonably certain, that major earthquakes usually follow within a week or two of mass breaching of cetacians. I have noted with alarm, the last week report of such mass deaths of marine mammals in an Australian beachside. I will not be surprised if withinn a few days a massive hits hits some part of the globe. The inter-relationship between the unusual 'death-wish' of pods of whales and its inevitable aftermath,the earthquake, may need a further impassioned and unbiased looking into.

Dr Arunachalam Kumar

In the light of recent events, perhaps geologists and biologists on this list could comment, on the possibility of the connection proposed in the email above? Also, Dr. Kumar could point us to previous instances of whale beaching and earthquakes.

Yogesh Wadadekar

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Last Wave - in Literature Review, The Hindu

Serpents in Eden


A meticulous and woefully long listing of the many issues that assail the Andaman Islands.
The Last Wave

Harish Kumar comes to the Andaman Islands to … well, it’s not clear what his purpose is. What he sees, who he meets and interacts with, what he notices… makes up the story and it is not the happiest of tales. This is a paradise — with its coral, exotic fish, turtles, dolphin, forests full of game, honey, timber and bamboo — on a slow inexorable slide into urban hell.

Much of what Sekhsaria lays out is not new but is dismaying for all that. Given that the 2011 census pegged the population of the A&N Islands at 3,80,581, of which the Jarawas are a measly 300, it is clear who will win this battle. The indigenous people, once feared, now exploited, are up against a community who clear the forest, prepare the fields, construct houses and settle down. Add political machinations and business considerations to this mix and what you get is not a pretty picture.

With civilisation, of course, comes the impending ruin of the indigenous peoples, with ‘Jarawa tourism’ taking hold, people giving the tribals packaged food, tobacco and pan masala and of course, taking photographs of the naked men and women with salacious intent. There are blatant violations of international waters by Burma’s Karen tribals, fishing for sea cucumbers and more serious plunder. There are unauthorised visits facilitated by the greasing of many official palms, of outsiders who come to gawp or document the Jarawa. Or worse, to sleep with Jarawa women. Outbreaks of measles among the Jarawas are hushed up by the authorities. Unscrupulous timber logging is depleting the natural forest cover. Mangroves are converted to paddy fields and plantations. A flourishing trade in croc skins ensues. Religious fairs are held inside Jarawa areas. And, of course, the Andaman Trunk Road that cuts into Jarawa territory; lifeline or yet another incursion?

As the story draws to a conclusion of sorts, the 2004 tsunami hits and cripples the Andamans. Sekhsaria’s account of the wall of water that sweeps everything before it, snapping giant evergreen trees like so many matchsticks, is gripping. The book, going by pure content, deserves a place in the pantheon of literature about the Andaman Islands. However, some skilful editing would have made it a much better read; as it is, the slipshod editing grates. Awkward sentences abound. Hands are cut off at the shoulder. She doesn’t ‘register’ him. It demanded ‘to be itched’. People ‘pour’ over papers. Someone’s ‘eyes perk up’. ‘What might she have told him? Him her?’

At times, the anthropologist in Sekhsaria overwhelms the novelist. The story is woven around environmental and anthropological concerns, so the many characters don’t hold the reader’s interest in more than a cursory fashion. The author wants us to know and absorb much information, so people sermonise or lecture for pages on end.

Ultimately, Sekhsaria cares about the islands, the vanished Ongles and Great Andamanese, the spirits of the forest, the Jarawas, the fast-changing character of the dense rainforest canopy, and that is what this book is about. I can’t help feeling, though, that it would have been a better piece of non-fiction. The passages that give us a potted history of the islands, tell us about the wave of humans encroaching on prime crocodile habitat, the Giant Leatherback turtles coming in to lay their eggs, the history of the Local Borns, how Aniket got its name, how the Jarawas collect honey without getting stung are so interesting, you really don’t want Harish and Seema — the two main characters — intruding.

The Last Wave: An Island Novel; Pankaj Sekhsaria, HarperCollins, Rs.350

Dec 28, 2004; a post on; revisiting December 2004

Dec 28, 2014

Dear Friends,
There have been regular postings on this group on what different people have been able to put together about what is happening on the islands. As is evident there is also a lot many queries about what needs to be done and what can be done.
I have been in touch with Samir through the day and now power and communications at least in Port Blair is much better. The situation in the Nicobars is rather bad and we still do not have any information either from the Central Nicobars and Great Nicobar.
The islands are continuosly experiencing tremors and this is compounding the problem. Samir mentioned that last night following one of these aftershocks, for example, the passenger jetty in Little Andaman too is reported to have collapsed.
I have also asked Samir what is it that is needed and what is it that we can do. His first reactions were that probably money and such resources are not needed, but that volunteers would certainly be of help. But this is still very initial suggestions.
In the meanwhile, ActionAid and Oxfam have been in touch, and in fact, an initial small joint team of the two organisations will be going to Port Blair in a couple of days, most likely day after tomorrow. They will be in touch with Samir, and hopefully will also be able to meet senior government officials. Following this, I assume they will work out their plan of action, and also figure out what is most urgently needed, what can be done and what is the kind of inputs and help that is needed. I would believe that these organisations with their expertise would be best placed to decide what it is that needs to be done. We will be constantly in touch with them, and based on what they say is required, we can try and garner our resources and energies towards that. In the present situation that does seem to be the best way forward. It will be a couple of days more before we get an idea of what is needed, but it might be worth the wait.
In the meanwhile, if we do hear from the islands or directly from Samir that particular kinds of inputs are needed, we can certainly try and take that up as well.

Pankaj Sekhsaria

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 hrs, Dec 28, 2004; a post on; revisiting the tsunami of Dec. 2004

Dec 28, 2004
2014 hrs
Dear Pankaj, Sharbendu, Anwar and others:

Today a meeting was held in Delhi at GPF (Gandhi Peace Foundation) basically to find out what Delhi groups can do in terms of relief and rehabilitation. It was organised at the initiative of Centre for Education and Communication, The Other Media, Jagori and Delhi Forum. ISI, Anhad, Sruti, Academy for Mountain Environics, Christian Aid, HMS, CITU, NFF and others' representatives were present.
Regarding the southern Indian States, it was felt from the feed back that came that help is needed in terms of mainly rehabilitation a nd rebuilding of livelihood of the fishing community. Materials should not be sent from Delhi. Rather fund could be sent for local buying and other use. As the meeting of Chennai groups was still going on, the Delhi meeting could not decide the exact quantum of help and felt perhaps an assessment was needed. It was also decided to open a separate bank account in the name of Tsunami Relief Fund to be administered by the Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Committee Delhi.
The meeting specially discussed the state of Andaman and Nicobar islands, the lack of information, the possibility and magnitude of devastation and the security blanket of the Defence Ministry. It has been decided that a team of 5-6 people will be sent from Delhi very soon consisting of some experts on housing, disaster management, tribal and indigenous people, social medicine. Mohini Giri has volunteered. Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad will be co-ordinating the travel arrangement and permission from the Defence Ministry - literally a political yes from the Centre. It would help the team to tour the islands extensively wherever possible and make assessments and then prepare a report.
It will be good to get a feedback from you all and perhaps help the team on the island itself, with essential knowledge, name of persons you may suggest for the team etc. The minutes of the meeting will be circulated tomorrow and I will definitely post a copy to the group.
In the meantime, any posting from the group could be sent also to;;;;;
We are extremely sorry that being decided at the last moment (was sending invitations till 9.30 in the night), we perhaps missed some of you who are in Delhi at present and could have contributed a lot. Will ensure that date and venues of the next meetings will be communicated.

In solidarity
Souparna Lahiri
Delhi Forum

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Last Wave - A review

“The world he belongs to did not want to annihilate the Jarawas, but it did not seem to know better”

A review of The Last Wave

Thursday, January 1, 2015

1905hrs, Dec 28, 2004, post on; revisiting the tsunami of Dec 2004

Dec 28, 2004
1905 hrs
I hope we'll meet all of you soon

As news of the Tsunami victims keep pouring in...images of these people and places keep filling up my mind and I stay with these fond memories. I hope all of you are safe somewhere. Our prayers are with you all and we are hoping that this time will pass soon.

Samir, Gita and Koyal- for me and many others, especially those who work to make the Islands a better managed place, they are the 'First Family'.Sukumari chechi, Samir's strong right hand. Dennis and Reshmi and others at SANE.

Uncle Pao, Uncle Pambe and the ANET family at what's called the 'base'. Just three days before the quake, we were envying the centre table's role in the lives of the ANET family! I hope its still there.

At Mayabandar:
Alex, the tattoed boatman and his generous family. Mainlanders such as us know him as Ravi's (Sankaran) boatman!!Ravi's team protecting the Edible nest swiftlets at Chalees ek (41) caves.

The Nicobars- the land of the captains and their folks who celebrate Kinruak (the festival to honour and remember their ancestors) The pretty Mus jetty at Car Nic- with a spectacular coral tree against the blue sky and a large pandamus. Someone told me that the jetty's gone...

An RFO from Car Nic, whose name I didn't write down, unfortunately...was most helpful with suggestions on accomodation and food.

Nancowry Islands
Robert Pee, Range officer at Kamorta, who's daughter is at Bangalore and who I am supposed to meet when I go there next.
Bandana and Vijay; doing their wildlife research and with them were Johny and Joseph, assisting and ofcourse teaching.
The Queen mother, Rashid and his beautiful wife and kids, Ayesha didi
Uncle Lemian and daughter Doris who told us about the days when the Japs landed in the islands
Tong Kumar, the first captain of Trinket and who still remains the leader of his folks .

At Great Nic
Capt VRN Shetty and wife- we had many cups of chai from their huge flask over a session of their endless fight against the Island Admin for building walls to stop the seas.
The Govt machinery that gave us no trouble at all! AC saab Jagjit Singh, chhote AC saab, ACF- Chaterjee Shabnam- the sprightly Tribal Welfare officer who had earned the trust of the Shompens. Her little daughter Pallavi, her father and brother.
'Southern Most General Store' - it brought home the truth that we call the Islands ours but its never in our active consideration...for us mainlanders, Kanyakumari is the last stop down south.

Savari' s boss; the young Shankar (Savari is the name of his Mahindra gaadi, he's very popular with tourists!)

Agou, Glen and Victor- the dynamic threesome that manned the ANET forest camp at Galathea. All between 18-21years, they did their job of surveying the turtles that came to the beach each night to start another generation of them, with great responsibility and pride. So much so that they were a constant motivation to the forest staff based there too. Agou, thanks for all the fish, supari and juicy paan leaves that you saved up for me. Just hang in there and I promise we'll make a trip to Kaziranga so that you can see the rhino.

Korma Rao, Charles, Ilias and Chandra of the Forest Department stationed at Galathea stayed on at the beach even though they preferred a better posting in town. They made space for us in their camp without grumbling about our long stay.

The setting sun at the point where the Galathea meets the ocean....the turtles and their babies, the megapodes and the N. pigeons and many other creatures

To you all and the scores of others who are out there, my prayers, good wishes and affection.

Manju Menon