Sharply dwindling house sparrow population indicator of ecological deterioration

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Sharply dwindling house sparrow population indicator of ecological deterioration

Saumya Mishra | March 23, 2019 15:21 hrs

Till a few years ago, the house sparrows were a common sight in a majority of areas of Guwahati and Assam. However, now they have become a rare sight becoming a cause of concern for environmentalists and residents alike.

While the exact number of house sparrows left in Guwahati is not known to activists working in the field of conservation of lesser known animals and birds, they informed that the number of house sparrows has been continuously declining. 
 
With the World Sparrow Day being celebrated recently on March 20, the focus has once again shifted to the declining population of house sparrows. 
 
Moloy Baruah, president of Early Birds NGO, which works for wildlife preservation, informed G Plus that in Assam two species of sparrows are found and these include house sparrows and tree sparrows.


“House sparrows are suffering because of mobile towers which are installed across the city, which generate magnetic fields and due to which they cannot bring up their offspring because the eggs do not become fertile at the proper time and break down; this is where the main problem erupts,” informed Baruah. 
 
Apart from this, he said that earlier house sparrows found shelter in thatched houses or tin-roofed houses.
 
“But now one does not find thatched house anywhere in Assam and as a result the sparrows are not getting sufficient alternatives to build their nests as because they do not go to trees like tree sparrows,” mentioned Baruah.
  
Further, another activist and founder of Help Earth NGO, Jayaditya Purkayasta told G Plus that the most important problem for house sparrows is the lack of living space since house sparrows rarely build their houses in trees as they don’t have a nest building mechanism.

“They search for some nook and corner so that they can build their nest. In the old style of houses which existed in Assam earlier, there were many small nooks and corners where sparrows could build their nests. But now we have RCC buildings where there is no space for them to build nests. So ultimately there is no breeding space left for them,” said Purkayasta.  
          
On the brighter side, activists say that there are sufficient numbers of tree sparrows left in Assam. Further, environmentalists feel that the celebration of World Sparrow Day will provide a boost in generating awareness about conservation of sparrows.
     
World Sparrow Day was earlier celebrated only in Mumbai around 15 years ago, but it has now spread to other states as well, said Baruah.

“The celebration of World Sparrow Day brings about conversation surrounding sparrows among people and it has generated a lot of awareness,” said a Guwahati-based wildlife activist.
   
Further, Purkayasta pointed out that intolerance is another major reason for the declining numbers of house sparrows in Guwahati. 

“Till two generations ago, people used to live more closely with nature and they had tolerance. Even today in places like Uzan Bazar and Railway colony, we see birds nesting on the houses but people do not disturb them and are tolerant towards them,” informed Purkayasta. 
              
He added that in the modern system, people usually don’t tolerate birds in their houses as they have broken the contact with nature gradually.    

“House sparrows are suffering because of mobile towers which are installed across the city, which generate magnetic fields and due to which they cannot bring up their offspring because the eggs do not become fertile at the  proper time and break down,” Moloy Baruah, president of Early Birds NGO.


Other birds need preservation too 

Moloy Baruah, president of Early Birds NGO which works for wildlife preservation added that apart from house sparrows, there are other birds which also need attention of the people and must be protected. 

These include hornbill, storks and the vulture. “There are only a few hundred vultures left in India now. They have seen a very steady decline from around one lakh vultures in 1992, but now only around 2,000 are left across the country,” informed Baruah.    
    
He further added that the Greater Adjutant Stork’s population in Assam is around 1,200. Further, besides Assam, only Bihar has some population of the bird left with around 250 birds living in Bihar. Additionally, Baruah mentioned that no other Indian state possesses this bird currently. 
    
On the other hand, while the activists blamed the government for not taking any initiative to save the house sparrow, some of the NGOs have taken proactive steps to create awareness among residents. 
  
Activist and founder of Help Earth NGO, Jayaditya Purkayasta, informed G Plus that they have taken initiatives like distributing bird boxes among people. These boxes provide a space for the sparrows to help them in the building of nests and ultimately promote breeding.  
    
“We usually distribute the bird box to general people and we also ran a ‘My Bird Box’ campaign among Guwahati residents. 
We have also installed some bird boxes in places like Dighalipukhuri and Shraddhanjali Kanan,” said Purkayasta.
        
He also complained that the state government has limited its scope and only focuses on rhino conservation. He added that this is also one of the reasons why no survey has been conducted on house sparrows in the recent past which poses a problem for wildlife activists. 

“While the activists blamed the government for not taking any initiative to save the house sparrow, some of the NGOs have taken proactive steps to create awareness among residents.”  

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