Saturday, February 10, 2007

The People of the Waters

People inhabit the most different regions of the Earth, from seashore to over 4,000 m (12,000 feet) altitude and deserts where temperatures overpass 50 degrees C or polar zones.

Not only the ground, but water too serves, since the oldest times, for some human populations as natural environment, in which they organize a specific life.

But why water?

Because the great water surfaces, with their inexhaustible vegetable and animal richness, allow a relatively easy food and clothing procurement, being at the same time facile paths of connection with the outside world.

Aquatic settlements also represent natural fortresses which defend their inhabitants against the attack of wild beasts or enemy tribes.

That’s why some populations keep on building houses on water.

Let’s know some of the palustrine populations.

In northeastern India, on the Valley of Brahmaputra River, amongst other peoples, live the Garos.

Their houses are inside the wet jungle, surrounded by hills.

Before the beginning of the monsoon (from June to October, bringing huge amounts of rainfall that floods large areas), the Garo people, which live during the dry season in bamboo

huts, move in “suspended” houses.

The walls, the floor and the ceiling of these houses are made of bamboo.

Even if for securing the wood, Garo people do not use nails, their houses are solidly installed on their pylons.

Garo people also use pre-built materials: the walls and the floor are interlaced before, during the building process they are just bonded with bamboo bindings.

Once, Garo people were headhunters.

In the center of Cambodia is the Tonle Sap Lake, which trough the Tonle Sap River is connected to Mekong River, the biggest in Southeast Asia.

During the rainy season (May to October), the lake increases its surface six times (from 2700 to 16,000 square km-1000 to 6000 square miles), and the average depths from 1 m to 9 m.

This lake has a great fishing importance.

Fishermen around the lake have houses built on rafts (photo 1,2), secured by stilts implanted on the bottom of the lake.

The floor can be moved up and down on these stakes, depending on the level of the waters.

Kennels and coops and even kitchen gardens can be seen on the rafts attached to the main house with bamboo ropes.

When the waters retreat, the houses and the coops are left on the ground.

In the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei (northeastern Borneo), named Bandar Seri Begawan, there is a district called Kampong Ayer (“Water Village”) (photo 3), built on the water and compassing about 30,000 inhabitants (10 % of the country’s population).

The houses are gathered and connected by narrow decks.

To enter a house, a staircase like those for a chicken coop is used.

The housings are simple, but very neat.

Between the planks of the floor are spaces so large that the water below can be seen.

Some say that these housings were build up for sanitary reasons, others that as defense but what’s definitely clear is that the air over water is cooler than the hot one over the ground, of 35-38degrees C all year round and with not a breeze (the so called equatorial calm).

In front of the houses there are built platforms.

That in the front of the school is big enough to serve as schoolyard.

On the Luzon Island, the biggest in Philippines, live the Tagalog (“those near the river”) people, named so because of their habit of establishing themselves near waters.

Some of the tagalogs live in small boats named “kasko”.

They migrate from place to place in their small vessels.

These people do not practice agriculture and live from sea resources.

On the Andes High Plateau called Altiplano, at the border between Peru and Bolivia, the Lake Titicaca is situated.

This is the largest high altitude lake (8,372 square km) and the navigable lake situated at the greatest altitude (3,812 m).

Amongst the inhabitants of the region are the Uros people, who found in other times refuge from Inca in the center of the lake.

They inhabit artificial islands (photo 4) called totorals on the Titicaca Lake.

The islands are made from floating rafts made by totora, a type of reed that grows abundantly at the lake’s shore.
These islands can last to 30 years, harboring up to 10 families.

Totora is also used for making mats, ceilings, and so on, but also serves as forage.

For traveling around the lake, the Uros use totora boats, with high extremities and made of long totora sheaves, tightly secured with vegetable ropes that make a perfect tightness.

In the center of Amazonia region lies the city of Manaus, inhabited by almost 2 million people.

Here, the temperatures are almost the same all year round only that the winter is rainy and the waters swell.

During the rains, many floating houses (photo 5) of the indigenous people, made of cashew brown-red wood, glossy and very resistant, are ripped off from their anchors and dragged in other places.

None is scared by this sudden removal, and when the rainy season ceases, the inhabitants restart their occupations, like nothing would have happened.
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