“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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)