Vikas Madhav and Prasanna Sriya- My experience at Pichavaram

Vikas, son of Prasanna, is in 5th grade at Sishya School and loves wild life
in general, birds in particular, and aspires to meet Sir David
Attenborough. His favorite school subjects are Geography, Science,
Language, and Math. 

I went to Pichavaram mangrove forest on the 5th of September 2009. Pichavaram is about 14 kms from Chidambaram, in the Cuddalore district, 240 km south of Chennai, where I live.

Much before my journey could begin, I was thrilled, as my mind raced with pictures and scenes of mudskippers, shells, crabs, fiddler crabs, clams–last but not least–the mangrove Pitta. The rich biodiversity and the wetland / mangrove ecosystem is home to creatures both big and small. The undisturbed balance between nature and the ecosystem that it supports makes this place a paradise on earth.

image_sriya_Pichavaram Mangrove.jpg


Pichavaram is the world’s second largest mangrove forest. There are more than 428 waterways leading to the sea, and very few of them have been navigated by man. Walking across the water is possible, but only within predefined routes, as the depths of some of these waterways are said to be unfathomable. They are to be ventured only when local guides are available. It’s very dangerous, and strongly not recommended, to venture without a guide. Very few people know of the existence of these places, and far fewer ever visit them. Nowhere else in the Indian subcontinent will you encounter an ecosystem as unique as that found in Pichavaram.

 I also had a sense of pride because I am from Tamil Nadu [the state where Pichavaram is located]. The world’s largest mangrove, Sunderbans, is shared between India and Bangladesh.

We reached Pichavaram at 3PM and got to stay till 6PM. We took a rowboat, for this is the only mode of safe and secure transport. Even had we taken a speedboat, the engine would have had to have been shut off–the roots and weeds would damage the blades of the motorboat. What I saw in front of me was more than realistic–a thick mangrove forest. As we went in further, we were able to hear bird calls. I got to see Little Green Heron–not one or two, but five of them– Pied Kingfisher, Small Blue Kingfisher, and Brahminy Kite, also known as the Garudan.
 
Honestly, I didn’t want to leave the place! But I had no choice: I left with heavy heart and fond memories.

image_sriya_Little geen Heron.jpg

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I have learnt in my Geography class that mangroves are the first major line of defense from high tidal waves like tsunamis. It seems that during the 2004 earthquake in Indonesia [Banda Ache], the Pichavaram mangrove forest reduced the impact of the tsunami in the Cuddalore district  in two ways: 1)The velocity of the tsunami water was greatly reduced after it entered into the mangroves, due to friction created by the thick mangrove forest, and
2) The volume of water was greatly reduced as tsunami water, after entering into the mangroves, was distributed to all the canals and creeks that are present throughout the forest.

The boat man said, “We saved the Mangroves by conserving them and protecting them. On the day of the Tsunami, Dec 26th2004, the Pichavaram mangroves saves many fishermen’s lives.”

The practical knowledge from the boatman, and my personal experience at Pichavaram, have given me a sense of responsibility, an awareness of where I live, and a respect for the place–not just where I reside, but where I rest …

24 responses to “Vikas Madhav and Prasanna Sriya- My experience at Pichavaram

  1. Wonderfully written and you are right about Mangroves, they are a front line defense system for the coast whether by preventing destructive Tsunami waves or sea level rise or erosion of the coast, they make sure none of that happens. They are also a very important part of the ecosystem supporting many species of birds and aquatic creatures as you have noticed. All the best!

  2. Dear Vikas,
    Its good to read your experience @ pichavaram..Keep it up..Your words
    //The practical knowledge from the boatman, and my personal experience at Pichavaram, have given me a sense of responsibility, an awareness of where I live, and a respect for the place–not just where I reside, but where I rest …//
    makes me think a lot….great writing…keep writing..

  3. Wow!! Thats amazing for a Class 5 Kid!! Keep it up Vikas! May your dreams come true!!

  4. Dear Vikas,
    Enjoyed reading your Pichavaram experience…
    keep it up and sustain your interest in nature watch. I am sure your dreams will be fulfilled
    one day!!
    Happy birding
    Bhanu Aunty

  5. Vikas,
    That was a very enjoyable read, and I hope to read about many more of your travels and adventures.
    I had the great fortune of listening to David Attenborough in person, many years ago in New York, and he was every bit as fascinating as I hoped he would be. It is an experience and a memory that I will always cherish. I hope that one day you, too, will be able to fulfill your dream. Keep writing!

  6. Vikas,
    That was a very enjoyable read, and I hope to read about many more of your travels and adventures.
    I had the great fortune of listening to David Attenborough live, many years ago in New York, and he was every bit as fascinating as I hoped he would be. It is an experience and a memory that I will always cherish. I hope that one day you, too, will be able to fulfill your dream. Keep writing!

  7. Dear Vika,s,
    Your article on Pichavaram mangroves is amazing. on Salim Ali’s birth anniversary I had the opportunity to listen to Your mimicry of the bird calls of so many birds . They are still ringing in my ears. And your knowledge of its habits and habitats are amazing. I wonder whether it is in the genes that you have inherited from your zoologist grandpa shri Dhandapani. I have seen him consult so many books to keep up your enthusiasm on wild life ( and of course to answer the very difficult questions you keep asking). And now this article ! Congrats. keep it up.
    Rema aunty

  8. Dear Vikas,
    It is an excellent article. It is amazing that you could observe so much and still put the details in a nutshell. We enjoyed your company during the trip; but your article is more enjoyable.In addition you have proved your photographic skill as par excellent for your age. Keep it up. GOD BLESS YOU. Baby Paattee and Pani Thatha.

  9. Excellent Vikas! You should also write about your experiences at all the birding places near Chennai particularly Mudaliarkuppam backwaters where you spotted and photographed the Indian skimmer.

  10. Vikas, it amazes me everytime I read about what you are doing! Keep it up!! And I am so proud of your mom too for supporting you all the way:-)

  11. Dear Vikas
    Excellent job. Congrats.
    When we meet next in Sunderbans this January, you will have a nice opportunity to compare two mangrove ecosystems.
    We should plan trips to Pitchavaram again in summer and organize a neat project for you and publish your observations in IJES as we did with your letter to the editor.
    Love from
    Uncle and Mommymaa

  12. Your writing was very nice…..and besides I never knew that the world’s largest forest was in the subcontinent….I mean TAMIL NADU!!!!!!!

  13. Very nice, I have been seeing things before, but not watching. Now I will start seeing and watching. Keep it up. – Periappa

  14. Well written.. I had visited this place abt a year ago, alas we couldnt do the boat ride as we were late…
    Nice going Vikas!!

  15. This is a very important learning about the mangroves is it not?
    I’ve been to Pichavaram too, and loved it! Is the road going there still as horrible?! I thought its a good way to keep us all away, and preserve the mangroves!!
    Keep writing Vikas!

  16. Vikas,
    Very well written and relevant in the context of relationship between man and nature. Keep it up !
    Usha

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