At the main market in Palam Village adjacent to Delhi airport, six meat shops maintain a large drum behind their shops, and keep putting sundry waste like wings, refuse, etc., after cutting chicken and mutton in it. Once a day, they empty the drum into the MCD’s garbage truck at night. But this has been a new practice.
“Earlier we used to dispose waste in the open but the MCD started fining us,” said Babu Ram, one of the slaughterers, adding, “They tell us that birds get attracted to our animal waste, and often come in the path of airplanes which is dangerous.” These are just a few of the hundreds open-slaughterhouses around the airport where people have acknowledged what wildlife experts have been pointing out for long — the root cause of the problem with birds actually lies not so much inside the airport as outside.
“The large number of meat shops in the villages around the airport attracts birds, especially kites, which eat rubbish. These are easy source of food as waste is usually strewn around,” said ornithologist Nick Devasar of Delhi Bird Group.
The airport has been trying without success to scare the birds with high-tech, expensive devices that emit sounds to work on the “bird psyche”.
“The airport seems to be treating just the symptom, as the birds just can't be scared away,” said wildlife expert Dr AK Malhotra, author of Tigers of the Sky-Pariah Kites.
“Birds are driven by the urge to find food and build nest. As long as they find that, no amount of scaring will help,” he added. Malhotra in talks with the Indian Air Force for bird problem in their airstrips near Delhi has advised that combing areas around air strips and take away nests and sundry nesting material. “Two seasons in a row if birds can’t find usual nesting places, they look for other areas. And that's the permanent solution,” he said.
The NGOs working in this area with the MCD have carried out a few raids against illegal slaughterhouses. “But since they are unorganised, almost all of them are back in business in a few days even if their stock is confiscated,” said animal activist Gautam Grover, who has been obtaining directives from courts and raiding meat-shops along with MCD.
Vijender Gupta, chairman of MCD's Standing Committee, has written to the airport authority asking for their inputs on the problem.