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.