Like most dreamy teenagers, this 17 year old spends hours gazing from his balcony. His Chittaranjan Park house commands a beautiful view of the greens in the neighbourhood. But, for Abhiraj Majumder, the picture is incomplete: Where are the sparrows? He wonders.
This simple thought a few years ago, set Majumder on a trail of self discovery. No sooner did he realise that the essential avian members were missing from his idyllic view of the balcony, than he decided to act. His mission was simple — to bring back the lost sparrows of his locality — and for this he decided to begin by making sparrow houses.
“I researched on the Internet and came to know about different kinds of sparrow houses that can be made using various materials. In the end, I decided to make them out of waste items,” he says. Abhiraj visited hardware stores and collected waste PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes. He also bought some bakelite sheets at Rs10 per disk and few metal nails.
A Class 12 science student, Majumder remembers being fascinated by sparrows as a child. He narrates how a large number of small, brown coloured birds would titter around in the balcony and he would chase them with his camera. “There was a time when I used to come across so many sparrows. But those days are long gone. Sparrows are fast vanishing from our backyards. They are left with no nesting spaces because of rapid urbanisation. Birds such as pigeon and mynah have taken over all the nesting spaces, which that earlier used by sparrow,” he said.
Having made 40 sparrow houses, Abhiraj says, a sparrow house should be firmly fixed, to ensure its stability, only then will a sparrow choose to live in it. The best place for installing these nesting areas, he says, is either on terrace or under the windowsill. A stable nest, which has no direct sunlight, is easy for sparrows to live in. “These nesting spaces have small entry holes, which are fit for sparrows to enter. These cannot be invaded by pigeons and mynahs,” says Abhiraj.
Making these birdhouses is easy and Abhiraj has now embarked on the plan to teach others. Recently, he conducted a workshop in which almost 25 participants, learnt and created 20 sparrow houses. Most of them have now installed the birdhouses in their homes. “The response from the participants was great. Most of them were amazed to know that building sparrow houses is simple and takes only half an hour,” Abhiraj said.
As monsoon is the nesting period for birds, Abhiraj aims to install as many sparrow houses as possible before the season sets in. A few weeks ago, he also launched a Facebook page named ‘Save The Sparrow Delhi’ which received a response far beyond his expectations.
“I realised that while most are aware of the problem that sparrows are becoming endangered, few know why or what to do about it, and that is the issue I want to address. I would like to spread the word on how to build nests and encourage the nesting of sparrows in and around where we live,” he said.
Abhiraj’s biggest challenge now is to manage studies and pursue his passion at the same time. He will appear for Class 12 board exam next year. But that hasn’t stopped him from planning to build more sparrow houses in the coming year. “Seeing the enthusiastic response of people towards the workshop and the Facebook page, I feel hopeful that sparrows will soon be chirping in larger numbers at my window again. I am now planning an event on June 5 to help spread the message further and distribute more nests,” said Abhiraj.