While I was setting up to fly my drone and get an aerial view of what the place was. I met two Khasi men in their late 40s who walked up to me. Both were curious to know what was happening. The one standing is Oliver and next to him is Michael. They wanted to be a part of the video and I was more than happy to have them in it. Oliver was the more enthusiastic one and tried chasing the drone.
After we were done flying, I got chatting with the duo who were cousins and asked them who they were and what they did for a living. Oliver told me that the two of them were fishermen from the nearby village of Shnongpdeng which is along the banks of the River Umngot in Meghalaya.
When I asked them if fishing was a viable source of living, Oliver laughed and told me that it used to be one, when they were growing up in the 90s. But now they barely catch enough to feed their own family. This seemed rather odd, since even five-year-old children can be seen fishing and trying their hand at catching something.
went on to tell me that he and his cousin were also a part of a team which kept watch at night to prevent smuggling of pebbles across the border. He said it’s a common thing for locals from either side of the border to come at night, fill the boat and row across. It’s been happening since as long as they can remember. Oliver added that a boat full of pebbles can easily fetch around ₹3,000-7,000 depending on the demand.
When I asked them why they cared about what was happening. Michael for the first time spoke and in a harsh tone told me, “This is our land, we will protect it will our last drop of blood.” Michael went on to add that most of the locals who have been lured into pebble smuggling are doing it out of sheer desperation to make quick money. He said, most do it out of poverty and look at this as an easy way to make ends meet.
Oliver added, that the pebble smuggling has started to affect the ecosystem of the place. He claimed that back in the day, they used to catch ten times the number of fish they catch today. “There is no sand remaining, for the fish to lay their eggs.” Michael groans in the background.
The two cousins are hoping that their team of 12, can protect whatever is left of the river bank and hope that someday we stop destroying Mother Nature. On the way back, it actually got me thinking. If these two fishermen can do so much to protect Mother Nature. What would be possible, if a few more did their bit in whatever way they can?
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