Swamped Reason

First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. 35 No. 2, February 2015

By Bittu Sahgal

For all practical purposes, nature may well have created Anjarle beach in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, ornamented here by thousands of gulls, terns, waders and shorebirds, to protect the land from the sea. 

When a massive tidal surge hits the Konkan coast (which it surely will at some point), its energy will be sapped by offshore gravel and sand bars that will absorb water, and hurl the wave upwards, causing it to come crashing down with lost velocity. As the interrupted water mass proceeds landwards, still more natural barriers – corals and rocky outcrops will trip the wave. And when it finally makes landfall, Konkan’s 92 exquisite sandy beaches and dunes will absorb the shock, suck up water and further dampen the killing impact. Then, where they still survive, mangrove-lined mudflats, salt marshes, and littoral forests will conspire to additionally enfeeble the ominous sea surge.

It stands to reason that sea levels will rise, super cyclones will become more violent and coasts more dangerous as Earth’s climate destabilises. Instead of cutting down on carbon energy, India foolishly borrows billions of dollars to ‘protect’ our coasts, by using ecologically-illogical, ineffective, man-made, cement and concrete barriers, quarried rocks and monoculture plantations. Even as they dismantle nature’s infinitely more effective, no-cost natural infrastructures, planners deride those who question their recklessness.

Euripides nailed it best. When mocked for resisting swamped reason he pithily averred: “Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.” 

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