In coastal Andhra Pradesh, I visited a number of villages where the project is doing some work on environmental rehabilitation, specifically mangrove forest restoration. At Polatithippa, we took a boat into the creek to take a closer look at the forest. Our boat was small, wooden but motor-powered unlike some of the others that roam these waters where the strength of arms is all that makes them move.
The larger creek winds off into narrower, more silent subcreeks. By 10 am, the sun beats down ferociously and the heat is damp and sullen in here because the mangroves with their dense roots and thick leaves block out the sea breeze. This is where people from nearby villages come to catch crabs.
Crab catchers mainly catch and sell crabs and do not fish. I found this interesting article that says crab catchers in the Caribbean islands are considered “the lowest of the low on the socio-economic ladder” and therefore, “you have got to be careful how you use that term because on many islands it’s considered an insult.”
Here too, from what I understood, crab catchers are those who own small boats that are not equipped for the sea and they are often from lower castes so even within the creeks, they face trouble from upper caste fishermen.
They did not seem to hold a sense of insult about their profession though and seemed rather proud of their catch.
We traveled through the sub-creeks and the project manager pointed out different varieties of mangroves to me. Mangrove forests in Andhra Pradesh grow in the estuaries of the Krishna and the Godavari. (We were in the Krishna estuary.) The Krishna mangroves were officially declared to be a wild life sanctuary in 1998. I didn’t see any animals but I did see this large mangrove tree, which is quite famous locally. The people here say that this was the tree that saved their village during the 2004 tsunami.
We visited a mangrove nursery that the village people are maintaining with the project’s guidance. What they do is collect seeds from the forest and plant them. When they grow to a certain height, they transplant these to a barren land where they want to grow mangrove forests. The major species that grow here are Rhizophora and Avicinea and the forest provides a rich ecosystem for animals, birds, and crustaceans.
I was fascinated by these little yellow things which at first looked like insects. They are actually a variety of crabs.
On the way back, we saw people fishing in the larger creek. This girl should have been in school but she wasn’t.
And neither were these boys.