Dams · Fish Sanctuaries · Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk · Free flowing rivers · Karnataka · Western Ghats · Wetlands · Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

People of the free-flowing Aghanashini

“I don’t know my age. But I know that I have been coming to this river since I was a child everyday to collect bivalves.” Janaki Amma told us while wading waist-deep in the Aghanashini estuary. Janaki Amma is at least 70 years old and has the agility of a ballet dancer as she plunges inside the limpid water one more time, and comes up with a new haul of bivalves in a wicker basket tied to her waist.

On the banks of the river, Thulasi and Sumitra sit laughing on an old wooden boat, as only old friends can. They collect bivalves too. They have never seen the river not having the shiny, black bivalves. Throughout Aghanashini Estuary, we hear this again and again: fisherfolk and rice farmers, priests and devotees, older women and solid middle-aged men: all echoing the sentiment: “Our lives are entwined with the river.”

Aghanashini is one of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in India and also, the world. As more and more rivers become fragmented and severely impaired by dam building, examples like Aghanashini illustrate what a free-flowing river is capable of giving to its communities, if only we allow it to.

Aghanashini arises in Sirsi town in of Western Ghats in Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka, flows for about 117 kms to meet the Arabian Sea at Tadadi. Agahanshini Estuary, which is the part of the river with tidal influence has unique and unmatched biodiversity of fish, bivalves, mangroves, crabs, birds, rice varieties, even its own special salt!

Through his photos, Abhay Kanvinde shows us the glimpse of a living estuary and its people: People fishing, collecting bivalves, harvesting shrimps, drying fish, making salt, growing riverine-rice, ferrying across the banks, worshiping riverine gods and even protecting a sacred grove of mangroves in the Estuary!

Aghanashini is truly a gem: A river that needs not only protection, but celebration for performing multiple tasks at the local and the global scale!

All photos: Abhay Kanvinde

Text: Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP

IMG-20200321-WA0011
Women collecting bivalves in the Aghanashini Estuary Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200321-WA0010
Bivalves of Aghanashini, providing livelihoods to over 5000 people in the basin Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200321-WA0014
Janaki Amma carefully sorting out her catch of Bivalves Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0005
Aghanashini Estuary Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0047
Mahesh Pattagaru, once working in Bengaluru, now back in his village Masoor in the Aghanashini Estuary. Mahesh ferries people, cultivates Kagga Rice, fishes in the estuary. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0028
People of the estuary sitting on the sides of a Ghajini: Rice cultivating lands on river banks, with sluice gates to control movement of water in rainy season Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0029
People crossing the Aghanashini Estuary to work as farm laborers on a riverine island Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200320-WA0031
Estuarine fisherman in a hand-carved wooden boat, fishing in the mangroves Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0035
“All roads lead to the river” Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
Priest in a ferry, going to the Babrulingeshwar Temple Island Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0049
Mangroves of Babrulingeshwar Sacred Grove. The grove lies on an island where no footwear is allowed. No felling of mangroves is allowed in the sacred grove. The grove teems with fish, crabs, water birds and an entire bat colony, along with a temple and a well. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200321-WA0001
Emergent roots of mangroves in Babrulingeshwar Sacred grove. Its the only mangrove sacred groves recorded so far. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200321-WA0003
Emergent roots of mangroves in Babrulingeshwar Sacred grove. Its the only mangrove sacred groves recorded so far. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200321-WA0005
Stilt roots of Rhizophora mangrove in Babrulingeshwar Sacred Grove. Mangroves lead to stable coasts, are hugely productive and a haven for biodiversity. They also act as nurseries for Marine and estuarine fish species Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200321-WA0007
Stilt roots of Rhizophora mangrove in Babrulingeshwar Sacred Grove. Mangroves lead to stable coasts, are hugely productive and a haven for biodiversity. They also act as nurseries for Marine and estuarine fish species Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200321-WA0002
Babrulingeshwar Temple on the riverine island. Like in Goa, during Sankranti festival, boats tied together carry “Kalash” from Masoor Village to Babrulingeshwar Temple for 3 nights. Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_141701
Vishnu Sir showing us salt-tolerant Kagga rice cultivated in Aghanashini Estuary Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_141757
Lone cultivators of sat tolerant Kagga rice. Famed for its distinct flavour and ability to tolerate saline soils, Kagga rice is remarkable species which is now dwindling Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG_20200206_092019
Taari Jhataka: Boatman’s God. A shrine at Babrulingeshwar island dedicated to protecting riverine boatmen Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200320-WA0006
People of the river at Masoor village Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0010

Collecting bivavlves at the Aghanashini Mouth, Aghanashini village Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_124544
Bivalve meat of the Aghanashini mud-flats Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_125111
Proudly displaying the catch of the day Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0011
Tadadi, a bustling fishing port at the mouth of Aghanashini Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200320-WA0012
Tadadi, a bustling fishing port at the mouth of Aghanashini Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

IMG-20200320-WA0013
Stringing a fish at Tadadi, a bustling fishing port at the mouth of Aghanashini Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0016
Tadadi, a bustling fishing port at the mouth of Aghanashini Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0019
Tadadi, a bustling fishing port at the mouth of Aghanashini Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG-20200320-WA0023
Mudflats of Aghanashini estuary support immense biodiversity and feed the community too Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_113028
Sanikatta, a special kind of golden salt made on the salt pans of Aghanashini. Used for curing, preserving fish and also in cooking. People of Aghanashini swear by its unique full-bodied flavour Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_113204
Tadadi, a bustling fishing port at the mouth of Aghanashini. Diversity and abundance of Marine species is linked with a healthy estuary Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_120124
Bangda or Indian Mackarel drying in Tadadi fishing port. Health of marine fisheries also depends on healthy estuaries Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_120347
Bangda or Indian Mackarel drying out in Tadadi fishing port. Ismail Bhai says “All this is due to the river.” Photo: Abhay Kanvinde
IMG_20200205_120357
Bangda or Indian Mackarel drying out in Tadadi fishing port. Ismail Bhai says “All this is due to the river.” Photo: Abhay Kanvinde

Flowing freely since time immemorial, Aghanashini has not only nurtured the ecosystems of the region, but has influenced the culture and sociology of the estuarine region. An ill planned shipping port at Tadadi stands to threaten this fragile and precious world. Experts like Dr. M.D Subhash Chandra, Dr. T.V Ramchandra and the local communities have raised their voices against this.

Remarkable films like this: Aghanashini are being made on the river. There are only a few left like this. Aghanashini deserves protection. Aghanashini deserves celebration.

Photos by Abhay Kanvinde;

Text by Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP  (parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.