KOCHI: On a recent evening, cartoonist Ibrahim Badusha is sitting at his work table in his home at Aluva. He is drawing a dolphin which has a plastic bottle stuck to its beak. After a while, his seven-year-old son Fannan comes to the room, looks at the dolphin and says, “What is this?” Badusha says it is a dolphin. Then Fannan says, “Is this how dolphins look like? Do they have a bottle at the end of their nose?”
That is the opportunity for Badusha to educate his son about the massive environmental damage being done by plastic. He is busy making several similar cartoons.
In one, two fish with frightened eyes look at an oil slick, some of which had percolated below the surface of the sea. In another, a fisherwoman is selling a packet of fish to a man and she visualises what is inside the fish: bits of paper, plastic, and tiny cloth material. One cartoon depicts a fish that is swimming inside a bottle in a way to show the tonnes of plastic that has been dumped into the sea.
There is another simple drawing of a large vessel carrying goods and the propeller is sending sound waves below the surface. Two dolphins are near it, their mouths open and one of them is preparing to wear earphones. “Many people are not aware of the sound pollution in the seas and oceans,” says Badusha. “The noise of the propellers of thousands of ships all over the world disturbs the fishes no end. There is a lot of echo in the oceans.”
Extensive radar use by ships also upsets the big whales. They have large families and they communicate through sound waves, which gets disturbed because of the sounds emitted by the radar. Many times, the whales get disoriented and they end up near the seashore. Large sperm whales also develop reproductive problems. The damage caused by Navy warship exercises held by different countries in the oceans is another unknown fact. During the exercise, bombs are burst and the debris falls to the ocean floor. “I was not aware of this till I began doing research,” says Badusha.
Badusha has done these cartoons on A3 size chart paper and it was exhibited as part of a travelling show by his friend and nature warrior Firoz Ahmed Seagift. The first show took place in Alappuzha on World Ocean Day on Saturday. “This show will travel all over India,” he says.
He is keenly aware of environmental damage because he grew up next to the Periyar river in Aluva. On one shore, his mother’s family lived while his father’s family lived on the other side. “I would travel by boat back and forth,” he says. “In those times the water was like a mirror. It was that clear. I would swim in it often.” During the summer season, when it would get dried up at certain places, Badusha would walk across to his mother’s house. But all that changed when there was massive sand mining.
Then companies started sending their industrial effluents into the Periyar. “The river has turned orange many times,” he says. “If you take a dip, you could get a skin disease. That is how things have changed. In those areas where there is too much sewage, the fishes are dying. To be honest, I no longer eat the fish of the Periyar as it is unhealthy.”
But last year’s massive floods resulted in tonnes of sand, mud and silt again being deposited in the river. “In one way, the river has been cleaned,” he says. But Badusha will also never forget the parallel path of plastic waste, along with oil slicks that floated down. At Changampuzha Park, Kochi, where Badusha had come to attend the inauguration of an exhibition by young cartoonist Prince, he says, “It is easy to lose hope, but as artists, we must think positively and strive to change the mindset.”