A couple of weeks ago, I took the morning off in Ooty to explore the reserved forest area – Avalanche – and spent a morning in paradise. The forest department organizes 8 guided tours in a day and offers a choice of engaging a solo tour at a higher price. I opted to go solo and it was lucky I did as I was able to enjoy the pristine, untouched wilderness without the usual human babble disturbing the heavenly quiet!
The tour is a drive of around 2 hours on a largely mud track winding its way around the hills to finally reach a vantage point overlooking the Avalanche Lake. Gazing at the almost sapphire blue of the water in the lake, a feeling of sadness overcame me as the thought crossed my mind (not for the first time) that this is how India’s great rivers must have looked at one time before the pollution of civilization turned them into murky grey, sewage disposal channels. I would recommend reading Alice Albania’s Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River to anyone who is interested in saving India’s rivers. The book has the capacity to reduce the reader to tears as one learns how the mighty Indus that once protected India from invaders has been reduced to its current apathetic state.
The guide who accompanied me told me that the Tamil Nadu forest department does not allow any human to go near the Avalanche lake to ensure that the waters remain unpolluted. The lake is teeming with fish but fishing is controlled by the Fisheries department and strictly monitored to avoid disturbing the delicate ecological balance. I don my hat to the staff of India’s forest and fisheries departments who are struggling to preserve the beauty of India. It was apparent to me that these men (and women?) know what they are doing and take pride in it. Mahesh, my guide was a Toda and obviously loved his job. It was also obvious that he loved his forests, judging by the depth of his knowledge and the pride he took in showing me around. It was also great to see how he and the jeep’s driver stopped to pick up a mineral water bottle someone had obviously thrown out of their vehicle window on the kerb. It’s a good thing that the Forest Department restricts movement or the beauty of Avalanche would soon get choked with mounds of plastic and garbage.
Pani da rang vekh ke…akhiyaan jo anju rul de, sang Ayushmann Khurrana in Vicky Donor. In the movie, the song is a lament about a lover who does not arrive but I wish that same sentiment could be applied to beautiful water bodies and run strong in each and every Indian, leading to a collective mass movement to save all India’s rivers and water bodies. In fact, it constantly astonishes me that rivers like the Ganges are revered in our country and yet, we don’t hesitate to muddy the purity of the river with our waste. How can a revered body be treated with such scorn?
Indians mourn the loss of the mythical Saraswati. Let’s hope future generations of Indians do not need to mourn the loss of the great Ganges or our other great rivers!
The views expressed by the author are in her personal capacity.