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This year celebrate 'Sparrow Holi'

Sunday March 20, 2011 11:57:21 AM, IANS

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Where have all the sparrows gone?

For a long, long time, the chubby, chirpy house sparrow lived in our midst aplenty. Now, you can't find them in the urban environment any more. All this has happened in a span of just a few years.India is not the only place where the sparrows have disappeared from the cities.  »

New Delhi: They were ubiquitous once, chirruping and flapping their wings at the window sill, filling nooks on top of cupboards and fans with their well-cushioned nests, and eagerly pecking at the rice or bread grains you let scatter on the floor. Where have all the little sparrows gone?

For generations, house sparrows have added child-like freshness to households with their presence. Scientists and experts say that severe changes in the urban ecosystem in recent times have had tremendous impact on the population of house sparrows whose numbers are declining constantly.

Scientists believe that the birds may never return unless some concrete steps are taken now.

"They used to build their nests below tiled roofs of houses. However, changing architectural designs in urban settlements leaves no such place for them to nest," Arun Sharma, a scientist associated with Delhi governments' forest department, told IANS.

Mobile tower radiation and excessive use of chemical fertilizers are aggravating the problem and have been identified as potent sparrow killers.

"Excessive use of fertilizers by the farmers kills insects on which house sparrows feed," said Sharma.

So, in a bid to stabilize their dwindling population and to increase awareness about sparrows, scientists and activists have called upon people to celebrate this years' second World Sparrow Day Sunday, which coincides with the Holi festival, as 'Sparrow Holi'.

"We want people to celebrate this Holi for house sparrows by using non-toxic vegetable colours or as a colourful festival with flower and leaves," a scientist and the brain behind the World Sparrow Day movement Mohammad E. Dilawar told IANS from Mumbai.

According to Dilawar, in a country where people have campaigned for the conservation of animals like tigers and elephants, house sparrows have been a neglected lot despite their visible disappearance from urban as well as rural localities.

"This is reflected in the fact that no proper countrywide study has been carried out to count the number of house sparrows," said Dilawar.

The only dependable study in the country conducted by Andhra University recently highlighted that population of house sparrows fell by over 60 percent even in rural areas of the southern coast, he added.

However, studies in Western countries have shown the alarming rate of decline in sparrow population in the urban and suburban localities.

A survey conducted by British Trust for Ornithology has shown that house sparrow population in Britain declined by about 58 percent since 1970 in gardens during winter, of which suburban gardens have shown a greater decline - 60 percent, than rural gardens - 48 percent.

"House sparrows have never been an issue of concern for us with their diminutive presence in our households. Perhaps, it is this diminutive presence because of which even their gradual disappearance has gone unnoticed," said a bird lover Rohan Srivastava.

And the fact that sparrows don't feature prominently in environment surveys published by the government reminds one of their silent journey into oblivion, he added.

According to scientists, house sparrows and pigeons were in competition for nesting space in Delhi and the smaller bird was obviously beaten by 2008.

"This is the reason why house sparrows are hardly visible in cities like Delhi these days," added Dilawar.

Though it is true that house sparrows are small in size but their disappearance may cause havoc to the entire ecosystem.

Dilawar said, "If we continue losing them at this pace then someday the entire system may collapse."

The reason being that house sparrows are important bio-indicators and their decline is a grim reminder of degradation of the urban environment and the danger from it to the humans in long run, he said.







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