Rampant urbanisation on the periphery of Chandigarh has resulted in various species of birds fleeing the region. The trend has been witnessed for years across the world, but this relatively newly urbanised region that once had lush green fields and trees, is now a concrete jungle with no space for the winged creatures.
“Kharar used to have small patches of forests which have been axed to pave the way for the construction of buildings and complexes. Nowadays I see no bird at all,” says Kamaldeep Singh Tiwana, 36, who has lived in Kharar since his birth. There used to be doves and peacocks, even honeybees, butterflies, which have disappeared. We get to see birds only when we go to Kasauli and other hill stations, said Tiwana.
According to Harinder Pal Singh Jolly, vice-president, municipal council, Kharar, nothing much can be done about it. “Population is increasing so people need houses to stay. Thus urbanisation is inevitable. It is accompanied by pollution caused by vehicles. I have lived here for 12 years and witnessed 30-40% of the open land being urbanised,”Jolly added.Zirakpur residents too are concerned over the loss of birds. Shama Sharma, 50, of Zirakpur said, "There was a time when we used to come across so many birds but now only pigeons are visible, that too rarely. There is no site of sparrows or peacocks in the region. I miss them. I am residing here for the last eight years, and have been watching rampant urbanisation of the city."
Photo credit: Mitender SekhonPlacing food and water in bowls for birds was among routine works of Kiran Sharma, 52, a primary teacher at Kendriya Vidyala. "There was a time when Zirakpur had so many birds. Nowadays, we have stopped putting food and water for birds as they are not at all visible. I feel quite disappointed as my kids don’t get to see nests or various kinds of birds anymore."
Photo credit: Mitender Sekhon
In SAS Nagar, Mitender Sekhon, 53, head of department for geography, DAV College, says urbanisation is destroying the natural habitat of birds. “A long time ago, this area was marshy with lots of trees, therefore conducive for birds. Indian Thicknee and the Open Bill Stork frequented this area a lot but both are not seen here anymore. House sparrows, which made their presence felt every now and then, are decreasing.”
SAS Nagar divisional forest official Tejinder Singh Saini, 57, says the use of excessive insecticides and pesticides in farms has worsened the situation. “Farmers use more pesticides than requirement nowadays. The intake of chemically affected grains in the fields shell doom for birds. Agriculture department should apprise the farmers of hazards of pesticides and insecticides. These also harms the soil.”
There’s an urgent need for necessary measures to be taken to bring the situation under control.
Former chief architect of Chandigarh, Sumit Kaur, says several countries have already started working towards bird conservation.
“Taking into consideration that buildings with transparent glass facade and emitting excessive light are hazardous for birds, several countries are creating a bird-friendly environment. Toronto and New York are good examples. Besides, San Francisco and Chicago among others are implementing voluntary lights out programme during night hours for buildings during migration period,”she said. San Francisco is the first city in the world to pass an ordinance codifying standards for bird-safe buildings to prevent the birds from ramming into the buildings, and ensuring inclusive development.
The peripheral areas of the city that are developing at a fast pace require planning that keeps in mind the ecosystem at large.
“Architectural elements like jaalis, chajjas, cantilevers, canopies, courtyards (open spaces) etc, which have been an integral part of traditional architecture, attract birds as they use such surfaces or spaces for resting and nesting,”says Sumit Kaur, adding glass buildings which are being built these days show insensitivity to nature and the ecosystem.