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Cochin needs to preserve its green lungs

Documentary Haritham Director Rajendra Prasad Producer Jaycee Foundation and Gothrabhumi films

Published: Wednesday 28 February 2007

Mangala Vanam is a bird sanctuary in the heart of Cochin. Ostensibly so. But migratory birds have stopped visiting this mangrove since the last few seasons. Declared a protected area in 1972, this green lung in Kerala's coastal city is now hostage to the machinations of the powerful real estate lobby. The state government looks askance and plays benefactor to the violators, so shows this documentary under review.

The Cat Stevens' song, Where do the children play, that recurs throughout the film is an apt allusion to the goings-on in Mangala Varnam. The mangroves are surrounded by the Kerala High Court and offices of the Bharat Petrochemical Corporation Limited and the Southern railways. Other government and private agencies own about 8.44 hectares of land in the reserve's buffer zone. There is an eco-township as well the documentary shows the government wangled it into the mangrove.

The director has also interviewed environmentalists, politicians and ornithologists on the importance and necessity of preserving this reserve. Haritham also puts forth several suggestions, like declaring Mangala Vanam an eco-sensitive area under the environmental protection act and to incorporate ecological studies into town planning exercise. Having strategically caught then opposition leader and present chief minister V S Achyutanandan on record arguing for protection of mangroves, it needs to be seen how the director and his well-wishers use this documentary to bring about protection of mangala vanam.

The director has not introduced these experts. Maybe he felt they were too popular to be introduced! This, however, does not take away any credit from the director and his team. O N V Kurup's poetry and pleasant narration make the documentary attractive.

The documentary is commendable in clearly highlighting the message that for its survival Cochin needs to preserve its green lungs--the mangala vanam.

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