Friday, December 21, 2012

MAP intern's Narration of First Field Trip

It is nine o clock in the morning, Vienkapang road, Trang city. I arrive at MAP´s Asia office
feeling a little dizzy after a short night and a hurried, unfinished breafast (I still can´t get
a whole night of sleep without waking up – I don´t know if it is the climate or the noises
I haven´t been able to grow accustomed to in the past three days of my freshly started
internship…). Today I´m going to leave the office for my first field trip. The destination is
Thunggor, Bawi. It will take us a good hour car ride headed to the sout. It is just me (Marc,
fresh intern from Germany), Ning (MAP Asia office field coordinator) and Mr. Sompoch
(Freelancer and aquaculture expert) who will be on this field trip. At the site we will meet
a member of the DMCR (department of marine coastal resources) and the pond owner.
MAP is starting a restoration project in Thunggor, Bawi with the objective to rehabilitate an
abandoned shrimp pond with the tool of EMR (ecological mangrove restoration) and to turn
a neighbouring abandoned shrimp pond into a sustainable aquaculture site where indigenous
vegetation and compensational livelihood for the villagers shall go hand in hand in the future

After the ride with Mr. Sompoch´s pickup truck I now know why there are so many trucks on
the streets of southern Thailand. You can load them heavily with all kinds of stuff (melons,
furniture, motorcycles etc.) and they come in handy when roads are being rebuilt or simply
end in rural areas and it is going “off road”. After one hour our aspahlt road is alternated by
red soil and we wangle in slow speed through an area with (compared to german standards)
more or less improvised shelters and small houses. We transverse a rubber plant and come to
a white storage building for shrimp food. We get off the car and the sun is burning down on
us. We meet the owner of the abandoned shrimp ponds and after a while a staff member of the
DMCR joins us, too. As I don´t understand thai language I just follow Ning and the others
into the area where the former shrimp ponds are situated. Some little crabs and other tiny
creatures vanish into the holes in the ground quickly as we apprear and suddenly I see them:
the mangroves ! I am standing on the dyke of the abandoned shrimp pond and I can see them
on the other side of the creek a few meters away from me J Ning pulls out a little book
where she immediately shows me the species that are growing around us (e.g. Ceriops
decandra, Lumnitzera littorea, Rhizophora mucranata, Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea).
Actually, if I hadn´t photographed the book pages I would not have been able to recite the
latin names for this narration :_) It is hot and I am very happy to have taken my sunhat with
me. Carrying my totally overlaoded backpack is a struggle and I deposit it in the shade of a
coconut tree after a few minutes of carrying. I take a group picture of Ning and the others.
After that I explore the site on my own – given the task to gather the GPS (Global positioning
system) coordinates of the two abandoned shrimp ponds. It feels good to be in the field on my
own. I see some insects that I have never seen before and try to catch them with the lens of
my camera. But butterflies and dragonflies aren´t easy targets I have to learn. Anyway, I have
to get these coordinates and start with pond #1. Every step should be made carefully as this is
new terrain for me and I don´t want Ning to pull me out of the mud later on. The ponds look
like scars in the landscape. They appear like plain mud deserts compared to the thick
mangrove woods nearby. Suddenly I cry out and hectically scretch my leg. “What´s that ???”
I ask myself. Then I feel something tickling me beneath my trousers and running up my leg.
Immediately I roll up one leg of my pants to see, what is bothering me: it´s a large red ant.
And it has strong mandibles to bite anyone who intrudes into its territory. Unfortunately this
little fella is not alone out here and after a few more attacks on my legs, arms and other parts
of my body I decide to zip off my trousers to be able to kick them off right in the beginning
before they can climb up higher on my body . After a while I know to avoid the hotspots of

these little creatures and can proceed with collecting my GPS data. Half an hour later (or
maybe even an hour or more including various ant-removal manoeuvres) I have taken a
coordinate in every corner of the two ponds and my longsleeve is already soaked up with
sweat. There are no clouds in the sky and I really need to take a rest. I pull off my longsleeve
to cool down the body a little bit and take shelter in the shade of a coconut tree nearby the
pond dyke. Hungry as I am now, I finish the leftovers of my breakfast and enjoy the water I
brought with me. A light fence is right in front of me. On the opposite side of it is an active
shrimp pond. I see a little shed made from dried leaf and under it an old, oily engine with a
chain and some gears. They are the motors for the aerators in the ponds. The ground below
this archaic looking piece of metal is pitch black (although some white powder can bee seen
at the surrounding of it. Perhaps the powder has the function to soak up the pollutants…At
least I hope so…). I wonder how much oil and fuel have infiltrated into the ground during the
use of this machine. Some plastic bottle (I guess it´s one that contains motor oil) is standing
right next to it. I feel slightly depressed. Fossil fuels are burnt to press oxygen into a water
where animals are bred to mainly feed hungry western, overnourished stomachs…Leaving
behind a devastated area with degraded soil and maybe even accumulated pollutants
(e.g.antibiotics). What a shame. And after this exploitation of nature the shrimp farmers just
move on to another place, cut down the mangrove and repeat the whole tragedy again. Where
is the love or at least the respect for mother nature in this behaviour I ask myself ???
Unfortunately, I can´t see much of it at that moment. But perhaps my point of view is narrow
minded (e.g. the livelihood situation of the villagers might not be taken sufficiently into
consideration here). At the end of my internship I may have a more differentiated one on this
topic, I hope

No comments:

Post a Comment