Transforming the Poonga: A Note from Joss

 

Storks in the Adyar Poonga wetland park, Chennai
Storks in the Adyar Poonga wetland park, Chennai

Nine years ago when we gave the concept master plan of the Adyar Wetland Park to our client the government of Tamilnadu we didn’t  know quite what we were getting into.  All I knew was that we had been given an opportunity to nurture a change, to help protect and restore a sixty-acre patch of the planet in the middle of a huge community of ten million people.  We signed a contract and played a pretty hard game.

We have moved a few steps down the path.  There are 19 different dragon and damsel flies and a painted stork  has been seen.  Fungi of many colours and the sight of the white-bellied sea eagle is common. Let’s not kid ourselves: it was tough being chained to the Public Works Department rates and standards.  It was a battle with a system that doesn’t understand that plans can evolve, change, but it’s  also been an experience of working with many dedicated, impressive government officers as well as some  immovable monumental bureaucratic egos and thousands of citizens craving for the transformation  of the city landscape.

The Pitchandikulam team is still there helping to maintain the park and now we have extended our responsibility to another 300 acres of the Adyar estuary.

A community in harmony, well-grounded, will show tendencies in its practices of a much larger longer term plan.  It seems often these days that knee-jerk surgery is more the order of the day. It is not exactly the 100 year plan that we dream of, but we will try .

Living in the beautiful forest that we have planted in Auroville, never would I have imagined spending more than a fleeting visit to the mayhem of Chennai.  In the early morning in Chennai , it is a train or a jet plane and mostly crows that wake you and not the myriad sounds of a waking diversity that greets us in Pitchandikulam.

But this search for gold amongst the garbage is the challenge.  When you look up into the wide sky of the wetland and thousands of fruit bats fly between you and the emerging stars and because of how we have created the protected space, one only hears the frogs you  rejoice in the sink of silence that is here and hope that it helps some residents of the vast city to see and then work towards a healthier future for their environment .

It has been a hope that the people around the wetland would see it as their jewel, the place where not just the rainwater flows but they flow there also.  To know of its healthiness would be a boon while struggling with the challenges of the city.  To walk along the wetland’s peaceful paths would help heal the damage that this massive urbanization creates.  It would help to remember where we come from and guide us to work towards the day when the banks of the Adyar can watch the peaceful river flow again.

Light,

Joss

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