Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Islands in Flux - release in Bangalore

Happening on Saturday, 27th May, 6.30 pm; Atta Gallata, Koramangala.

The book will be release by Prasanna, Theatre director, author and activist.

This will be followed by an illustrated talk on the islands by Pankaj Sekhsaria who will be in conversation with Subir Ghosh, Author and journalist
 Click here for the Facebook page of the event: 

The book is available now in stores across the country and via amazon (print and kindle):  http://bit.ly/IslandsInFlux

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In the name of development - a review of 'Islands in Flux'


The indigenous community of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been systematically alienated from their land by the colonial and post-colonial policies. A new book chronicles the change.

Pankaj Sekhsaria’s recent book Islands in flux--The Andaman and Nicobar Story is a collection of around 20 years of his writings on the environmental and conservation concerns faced by the indigenous tribal communities of the region. Unlike his previous book, The last wave, a factual fiction adventure story dealing with love, longing and loss, this one is a collection of contemporary developments in the islands. The book is divided into seven parts and several chapters each dealing with the societal and ecological facets of the islands. Issues related to the environment, wildlife conservation and development policies that threaten the island’s indigenous communities have been chronicled by the author who is a long-time member of the NGO, Kalpavriksh.
Alienation of islanders
The book begins with the section, Setting the context, in which he writes about the history of the alienation of the island communities living there for over 40,000 years. The author takes a dig at the history writers of the modern democratic Indian state who have left gaping holes in their writings by not sudying the ancient indigenous communities--the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese. It is here that the author mentions “if the real and complete history of the islands is ever written, the British would not be more than a page and India could only be a paragraph”.
The indigenous people have been systematically alienated from their resources by the British colonial policies and the post-colonial development-oriented policies of India. The Britishers set up a penal colony in the islands in 1858, the Japanese occupied the islands during the World War II, and during the post colonial period, thousands of settlers from mainland India were brought to the island. Though the islanders put up a fierce fight to defend their territories, the social fabric of the island communities has been violently torn apart and their populations decimated while the settlers outnumbered the original inhabitants. The region is witness to nation building exercises, hinduisation of ‘uncivilized junglees’ and even an attempt to rename the islands. The author calls this as an attempt to “reclaim what was never yours”. No effort has been made by way of scholarship or historical studies to take the islanders’ point of view.
Forestry is the chief source of revenue in cash in the islands but the system of forestry did not suit the region. The author quotes an official report by the Department of Environment, Government of India that argues that “the forestry system was leading to a preponderance of deciduous elements in the evergreen system that would eventually destroy the whole island ecosystem”. The carrying capacity of the islands has been long exceeded, the author says. Ill-conceived schemes like cattle rearing were introduced for a community that does not consume milk. Tourism is a concern in the islands which have been declared as ‘global biodiversity hotspot’.
The pristine forests and the Jarawa tribal reserve that cover half the island are under threat because of the ill-conceived Andaman Trunk Road that separates the reserve land from the rest of the island. The Jarawas for whom the forests have been home for ages have been reduced to begging around the Trunk Road that runs through the reserve. The road has been controversial due to the negative fallouts on the island’s ecology and the indigenous people. The Supreme Court had in 2002 passed an order to close it; the island administration chose to ignore it. Its closure was absolutely critical to protect the Jarawa community, the author says.
Islands turn colonies
The author chronicles the 'colonising of the islands' in a chapter of the same name and discusses how the settlers look down upon the indigenous communities. Tension continues between the tribal communities, especially the ancient tribal community of Jarawas, and the settlers over land rights and there is a lack of political will to ease this even as the population of the Jarawas has been reduced to a few hundreds. “There are opinions that the Jarawas should be assimilated into the modern world, but it is clear that it is exactly this contact with the outside world that is rapidly pushing them towards the brink,” the author states.
In the chapter, A brief history of logging, Sekhsaria provides an account of the timber operations in the Andamans. He notes how as a part of India’s colonisation scheme, mainlanders were settled here. This was done to strengthen India’s claim over the islands. Incentives were offered to settlers by way of land and royalty free timber. The timber-based industry was promoted and liberal subsidies offered. Forests were exploited to benefit settlers who had little stake in the islands or its natural resources. Timber offered for millions decreased after the 2002 Supreme Court order. The order was in response to a petition by three NGOs to stop logging. The Supreme Court orders that banned the cutting of naturally grown trees in the Andamans and Nicobar islands were welcomed by the environmental rights groups. But logging continued within the tribal reserve.
In the section, Environment, ecology and development, the author stresses the need for evolving sensible conservation policies. The author discusses the consequences of introducing exotic species into the island systems. This has led to an irretrievable loss of native species and ecosystems. “The Andaman and Nicobar islands are unsurpassed in their botanical wealth, and the ethnomedical knowledge of the tribals who live here is astounding,” he says.
In the section, December 2004 and its aftermath, the author discusses the turmoil caused by the tsunami of December 26, 2004, which killed around 3500 people in the fragile Andaman and Nicobar islands, the worst hit area in India. The tectonic activity due to the third deadliest earthquake of the world in the last 100 years caused a significant shift in the islands’ geography with a permanent average uplift of four to six feet while parts of Nicobar islands went significantly under, with the southernmost tip, Indira point on Great Nicobar island going 15 ft down. Apart from dealing with how the tsunami destroyed the island, the section also highlights how the people picked up the pieces and started all over again.
Leave them alone
The tsunami waters inundated large areas of the islands causing damage to its coastal and marine ecology. In the aftermath of this turmoil, ecologists have suggested ‘no intervention’ and that ‘leaving areas alone should be the preferred management option’. A disturbing facet of the islands in recent times is its water scarcity. The islands have been facing severe water shortages even during the pre-tsunami period but this got worse after 2004. Fresh water sources got hit by the tsunami.
Talking about the faulty development planning, the author discusses how the former president late Abdul Kalam in 2005 in the aftermath of the tsunami announced a grandiose vision for the development of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. This included ecologically perilous components like deep sea fishing, exploitation of bamboo, value-added coconut products and tourism.
A central thread of Sekhsaria’s book has been the neglect and acculturation of the Jarawas, and their losing scuffle with the outsiders. The book presented in a journalistic manner handles the issue very sensitively and the author exhibits a keen understanding of the history of the indigenous people and its ecology.


The book is available now In stores across the country and also on amazon (print and kindle): http://bit.ly/IslandsInFlux
#andaman #nicobar #islandsinflux #thelastwave

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Focusing on an endangered world

Focusing on an endangered world
By K Naresh Kumar | THE HANS INDIA | May 07,2017 , 01:40 AM IST

Pankaj Sekhsaria, in his latest book ‘Islands in Flux – The Andaman and Nicobar Story’, writes on the key issues that the islands are facing
A book which has a relatively less-reported issue like Andaman and Nicobar Islands focusing on its environmental condition and the endangered status of one of its original people, the Jarawas, may or may not have rung a bell for a large section of non-fiction readers.

Still, with this form of media activity which borders on total activism, if not a whole time obsession, finding its supporters among a niche, yet an important section of the journalistic world, all seems to be not lost yet.

Pankaj Sekhsaria, with his anthology ‘Islands in Flux: The Andaman and Nicobar Story’ returns to travel on the same route, which he left with his first book ‘The Last Wave’, published three years ago. That was “a story of lost loves, but also of a culture, a community, an ecology poised on the sharp edge of time and history”.

A media review of that work even lamented that ‘unless you are an anthropologist or an anthropology student, you will hardly get to read a work of literature so soothingly immersed in that unusual milieu’.

As can be very well understood, with matters environmental, India has had a patchy record, resembling close to it being defined as utter callousness. Here is where Sekhsaria’s relentless crusade of sorts assumes a unique weightage.

Romulus Whitaker, an iconic environmentalist and founder of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environment Team (ANET) in his praise for the latest book recounts that Pankaj had joined the expedition in late 1990’s to the remote South Sentinel Island and here is where, he feels, the author’s obsession with documenting the ups and downs of environmental matters of the islands got triggered.

In his introduction, Sekhsaria informs his readers that his current book includes his writings from the same period – 1998 – to be precise. Of course, with an increased awareness in mainstream English media on green matters, he found respectable space for his analyses and observations.

This is endorsed by none else than Darryl D’ Monte, the Chairman Emeritus of the Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) who commends that the author demonstrates his unwavering commitment to chronicling the life and times of these beautiful but endangered islands.

Pankaj, on his part, is factual when he says ‘while I might make the claim that this is a substantial compilation on the recent history of the A&N Islands, it is important to note that it is far from a complete record of important developments there.’ He includes other contributors too for plugging such gaps, with due acknowledgements.

What comes through is the insensitivity with which governments have been treating the issue over the years. Taking a well-directed jibe at the present NDA government at the Centre, Sekhsaria sounds worried at the ‘complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the situation in the islands, of the existing infrastructural bottlenecks, of the challenges of providing drinking water here, of the exponentially growing problem of waste disposal and management, not to mention the impacts this could have on the fragile ecology and the vulnerable indigenous communities.’ It is clear for sure, that the ordeal has just begun for many of his ilk in this regard.

The book is available now In stores across the country and also on amazon (print and kindle): http://bit.ly/IslandsInFlux
#andaman #nicobar #islandsinflux #thelastwave

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A new ecological perspective - a review in The Times of India of 'Islands in Flux'

Micro Review: Islands in Flux-- a new ecological perspective

| Updated: May 9, 2017, 03.25 PM IST



* Title: Islands In Flux
* Author: Pankaj Sekhsaria
* Publisher: Harper Litmus
* Price: 399 INR
* Pages: 304 (Paperback)
* Genre: Non-fiction

The Andaman and Nicobar islands have emerged as a hot destination for tourists in the last few decades. But how many of us really know about the rich ecology of this region? Or do we know how Andamans' environment is adversely being affected with the influx of tourism? Environmental journalist Pankaj Sekhsaria has been reporting the contemporary issues of these lesser-known islands for over two decades, which have been compiled in his second book titled Islands In Flux . 

Islands In Flux features Sekhsaria's two decades of research and knowledge of Andaman and Nicobar. The book has detailed information and insights on environment, wildlife conservation, development, and the indigenous communities of these islands. It chronicles their important issues which are relevant even today. For instance, the ancient tribal communities including the Jarawas, the Onge, the Sentinelese have inhabited Andamans and Nicobar for centuries, but with the rise in the population in Andamans and Nicobar islands and its increasing development, these native tribes are now struggling to survive! Also, all the eight species of sea turtles found in the oceans of the world are classified as endangered. The Andaman and Nicobar Isalnds are considered the best nesting sites in India for three of these species. But industrialisation and increased human activities in these islands is adversely affecting the turtles. Islands In Flux shares in detail many such shocking ecological issues of this region.

The book not only discusses the issues faced by Andaman and Nicobar islands, but also provides solutions for conserving the future of these beautiful and fragile islands. The simplicity in which the author has tried to explain the important environmental issues makes it an interesting read. Islands in Flux not only maps the lesser known islands but also acts as a framework for the way forward. It is an essential read for anyone who cares about nature and the future of our world.

 The book is available now In stores across the country and also on amazon (print and kindle): http://bit.ly/IslandsInFlux

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kolkata release of 'Islands in Flux'

Book Launch of Pankaj Sekhsaria’s Islands in Flux; Compilation of Writings on Key Issues in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Happened at the Oxford Book Store, April 25, 2017

Oxford Bookstore and Harper Collins played the host to the book launch of Islands in Flux written by Pankaj Sekhsaria. The book was unveiled in the presence of the author along with Anuradha Lohia, Vice Chancellor, Presidency University.
The book Islands in Flux is a compilation of writings of the author on key issues in the islands over a long period. The writing showcases environment, wildlife conservation, development and indigenous communities who have provided insights and perspective on the life of the islands for over two decades. The book is like a map of the region and will make for an interesting read for anyone interested in the future of our world.

The event was followed by a panel discussion with Madhusree Mukherjee, Guggenheim Fellow, journalist and author. The illustrated talk on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands also had a presentation on images and the author’s real life experiences in the area for the last two decades.
Priyanka Dutta
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The book is available now In stores across the country and also on amazon (print and kindle): http://bit.ly/IslandsInFlux

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Saving a wonderland - Review of 'Islands in Flux' in The Hindu

Review by Jacob Koshy, in The Hindu, April 30, 2017

Saving a wonderland

Exploitation of the Andaman and Nicobar islands must end

Andaman and Nicobar, which consists of 500-odd islands that stretch from the south of Myanmar to the north of Indonesia, is synaptically removed from mainland India. However, when the monsoon approaches, India's meteorological department is particularly interested in the A&N archipelago.

One part of the monsoon winds branch out from here to make landfall in Kerala and usually, any delay is blamed on local cloud systems around the broader Andaman area. Once the monsoon soldiers on, interest in the Andamans abates until the next year.

Journalist and environmental scholar, Pankaj Sekhsaria, has for long chronicled this transactional relationship between the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the Centre. Islands in Flux is a collection of reportage and opinion pieces by Sekhsaria and published over two decades in several magazines and newspapers, including this one. The articles here primarily deal with how, beginning with the British and down to the present dispensation, the region's rich forestry has been exploited for timber and the ecological and social changes in its wake.

Logging has dramatically changed the balance of species, both plant and animals. Numbers of the four main tribes of the region, the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese, have dwindled from about 5,000 in 1850 to 500 today. This is largely due to a massive influx of 'mainlanders', who have over the years, sought to harness the benefits of its strategic location, forestry and now, increasingly, its tourism potential.

Sekhsaria touches upon themes such as the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on the islands, the challenges faced by various tribes in preserving their way of life and having a say in the islands' future.

A significant drawback in this collection is that there is little first person-perspective on how contemporary inhabitants of the islands view development. How has tribal contact with the outside world influenced internal tribal relations? Has the advent of increased communications technology meant a greater desire for adopting new modes of living?

While a good primer for those interested in the islands' history, it lacks anecdote and the scintilla of sharp observations to let the light in.

The book is available now In stores across the country and also on amazon (print and kindle): http://bit.ly/IslandsInFlux