I have walked that river, I have seen the fish
Deep in a discussion about native species, the ‘expert’ said “the river there is like a desert, there are no fish”. I replied; “but ma’am, I have walked that river, I have seen the fish. The local priest ‘calls’ them to him by thrashing the water with a leafy branch, which is why you call them marameen (tree fish) in your language.” We had to agree to disagree, but my memory of walking an hour in the hills of Coorg to reach the Hamyala River was still strong. A winding road that led to nowhere, but passed a gushing waterfall where we later swam and saw more of those ‘imaginary’ fish. But my memory is of 2007, and the last time I visited; the primary forest around the waterfall had been cut for a coffee plantation. The village priest who ‘called’ the fish wouldn’t let us touch them to record the species in photos, yet he flushed with pride when telling us how many he harvested for the festival every year. His method of choice a stick of dynamite. The fish were still there the last time I visited, so too were snakes, lizards, birds, dragonflies and beetles; the Hamyala River far from a desert. Faced with the insatiable appetite for water, land, development, will they survive and thrive? Or will their loss be remarked upon in the same way that catastrophic rainfall and devastating landslides make the news? I guess not . . .
– Steve Lockett