A few weekends back I went for a turtle walk after a long time. Well a really long time one can say, it was my first walk after 3 seasons, or in other words 3 years. In these three years a lot had changed, first being the direction of the walk. Earlier we walked from Besant Nagar beach to Neelankarai, now the its been reversed. The hatchery which was earlier located in Neelankarai is now located near Adyar Estuary. The distance is now a roughly 30 percent more.
Apart from this, the biggest change would have to be the crowds. Regular walkers inform me that on weekends, the average crowd is 30-40 people. That’s a phenomenal number compared to the earlier crowds, which averaged around 15 people. There of course were the days when 40 people turned up, but that was a rarity rather than being the norm. The larger crowd obviously meant that it has become a joy walk, actually it always is that for everyone except the scouts who go ahead looking for tracks, or those who have to carry the turtle nests back incase any are found.
The stretch now is more lit up, it’s brighter than it earlier was. Over the years the area somehow has lost its charm. During my first walks in the late 1990s, beyond Thiruvanmayur was the brigest stretch, Valmiki Nagar had a few lights, otherwise there was hardly any noticeable lighting in the area.
The distressing fact about this season is the number of nests found. With the season almost over, only 60 odd nests have been found, it’s a marked drop from past seasons when twice that number of nests would be found. It’s partly due to development of t he coastal front which has lead to the few turtles nesting, while trawling also has contributed to a significant number of turtles being caught in them.
In all, very soon, in a decade or so, they just might not be enough turtles nesting on the Madras coastline to make it worthwhile for people to walk.