E. J. Kalwachia
A. C. Patankar
A. I. Buvaneshwar (East)
F. K. Khapoliwalla (West)
Dhruv Sharma (North)
Vinod Kumar (South)
B. K. Karanjia
Genius Printers Pvt. Ltd
Founded, edited and published by B.K.
Karanjia on behalf of Godrej
& Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.,
Mumbai-400 079. For private circulation only.
An Irrelevant Question
question was the obvious one — where was God when the tsunami struck?
Columnist and author William Safire was provoked to ask it openly, but
must have asked it in the silence of their hearts as they watched,
horrified, television and home video images of the world they knew being
blown apart by a strangely named force — surging waves destroying everything
in their path, even sweeping innocent children playing on the beaches to a
watery grave, and leaving other children orphans of the storm, without
parents, without homes, with nowhere to go. Where, indeed, was God? But in
life, often, the obvious turns out on closer examination not to be the
Maneka Gandhi in an article titled "The Roots of Refuge" in Outlook, quotes
the views of scientists all over the world that if there was a storm at sea,
it would inevitably destroy buildings on the seashore; that by clearing the
sand dunes, mangroves and coral reefs to raise buildings, the land would be
dangerously eroded; and that as water from the water table near the beach
was displaced, sea water would storm into the void. There was never any
ambiguity about these findings.
Now, in the aftermath of the tsunami, the scientific verdict has been
unanimous, writes Gandhi, that damage was greatest where beaches had been
built on, dunes flattened, groundwater pumped out and coral reefs killed. On
the other hand, five villages in Pichevaran and Nathupeet in Tamil Nadu, 500
metres away from the shore, were saved from the raging waters because of the
thick cover provided by the mangroves on the shoreline. Agricultural
scientist Dr. M.S. Swaminathan confirms: "The dense mangrove forests stood
like a wall to save coastal communities. It acted like a shield and bore the
brunt of the tsunami, saving those inhabiting the region."
No doubt the Coastal Regulatory Zone forbids building activity within 500
metres of the coastline. But this is only on paper. Owing to pressures and
inducements from the hotel industry, certain chemical and oil industries and
fish farms, this regulation has been ruthlessly violated in the mad pursuit
of Mammon. Nature's fury, yes. But Nature also provides the means to subdue
that fury. In this context the question, where was God, is irrelevant. It is
also irreverent. For the question we should really be asking is, how can man
in his greed inflict with impunity such suffering on his fellow men? Weren't
the builders, hotel owners and others silent accomplices in this great but
If the "luminous mystery" defined as God is at all to be linked with the
tsunami disaster, it is in the abiding hope of a new humanity — in the
tremendous outpouring of compassion with governments outbidding one another
(the USA donating $350 million, Japan $500 million, Germany $674 million and
Australia pledging $800 million); with people all over the world giving till
it hurt; even children emptying their piggy banks into the common pool.
The question of anticipating and surviving future tsunamis is explored in
this issue by Vivek Kulkarni ("Tsunami — Waves of Fury"). Kulkarni is in
charge of the much-cherished Godrej mangroves in Pirojshanagar and has also
made a study of mangroves in some of the other tsunami-affected countries,
including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.