AN ECOLOGICAL LONGITUDINAL PERSPECTIVE OF PULICAT ESTUARY, INDIAS. Jerard Majella Francis and I. Arul Aram
The Dutch have created a Pulicat timeline which states that the Ancient Tamil Kingdoms from first century BC and the traders from the Arab world in the 9th century, kept Pulicat as their port trade centre, followed by the Vijayanagar Empire, the Golconda sultanate who were controlling the middle period and the Portuguese in 14th century. Thus Pulicat had been an active urban centre in the north Coromandel Coast for about five more centuries starting from 14th century. With the political support, the centre attracted many traders from across Asian countries. Pulicat was an ecologically and environmentally safe and sound centre that foreigners over the centuries in spite of their lack of knowledge of their languages and cultures could do their mercantile activities. So their conservation and communication skills and their adoptive attitudes received more revenue through trade and subsidiary activities and contributed more for economic growth for this part of south India. Agriculture, handloom textile, small-scale industries like ship building, and dye making had flourished in hinterland around the Pulicat region with their traditional knowledge of conservation both territorial and ocean. Earlier, fishing had not been an important occupation for inhabitants of Pulicat rather it was trade-related activity. Different economic classes from ship owning rich traders, producers, marketers to menial labourers had existed in Pulicat society. Source of livelihood was abundant and more opportunities were available for socio-economic transformations of households. Inspite of its multi-cultural, multi-religious structure, there was no identifiable communal clashes or similar incidents recorded during the given (14th century to 19th century) period due to their innate communication skills. Excepting a few political conflicts among regional rulers and among Europeans on high waters, Pulicat enjoyed golden phase in its socio-economic indicators during that period. Among the Europeans, Pulicat had been administered by the Dutch as the other two rivals, Portuguese and the English, kept away. Portuguese lost interest when they failed to keep tie with Muslim community in Pulicat and the English also did not have any plan to settle at Pulicat as Masulippattinam a strong fort and Madras served the strategic purpose for their political and economic maneuverings. After the 1680s they desperately needed a centre in Coromandel just for maintaining network with India by being at Batavia their headquarters in Indian Ocean. This study, while throwing light on the centres past glory tries to exhibit the reasons for the ecological, environmental and conservation lacuna as the lack of communication strategies of the Government, NGOs and the stakeholders for the downfall of socio-economic standing of Pulicat community. The study also finds out the inefficiency of the Government machinery that affects the livelihood of the fisher folk of Pulicat resulting in constant conflicts. Pulicat, a historically important glorious port is in peril, is a serious issue. In this context, this study takes a longitudinal perspective of this ecologically-sensitive Pulicat estuary.
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