Ahead of World Sparrow Day on March 20, the state government has started an initiative in all 75 districts of the state to help the bird that is currently dwindling in numbers due to a loss of habitat and other issues.
As part of the initiative, the divisional forest departments of Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar have started a drive to distribute 1,000 ‘sparrow boxes’ to school and college students in their respective areas to serve as nests for the species.
“We have got 1,000 plywood boxes made and initiated the drive to distribute them to students each day at different educational institutions. In the past three days, nearly 150 boxes have been distributed and students have been told to place them at home. These boxes will attract the bird and provide it a nesting place,” said Asif Shehzad, range officer at Ghaziabad.
For the boxes, the forest department has roped in several NGOs who have provided funds for the cause and constructed custom-made aviaries for the tiny bird. The ‘nest’ is painted green and has an opening large enough for the bird to fit in.
“The boxes attract small birds such as sparrows, which are decreasing in numbers due to ongoing construction activities and human intervention in green areas in Ghaziabad. The birds come to these boxes for nesting twice a year. They also feed the young ones inside the boxes,” said Ruchin Mehra, an environment activist in Ghaziabad.
According to forest officials, no survey was conducted to ascertain the number of sparrows in the city. However, they estimate that the count was six sparrows per person around a decade ago, which has now come down to two sparrows per person.
“This is just an estimate to consider the decline in sparrow population. We have not conducted any survey so far,” Shahzad said.
The Gautam Budh Nagar forest department has also started distribution of ‘nests’ in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway areas.
For the past couple of years, the district forest department, in association with a Delhi-based NGO, taught nest weaving to schoolchildren at the Okhla bird sanctuary in Noida. The objective was to preserve sparrow habitat. Later, they used to weave a nest for sparrows to be put up in houses.
“This time, as per orders of the UP chief minister, we are distributing plywood nests. We distributed 160 nests on Friday at Noida’s Okhla bird sanctuary and Greater Noida’s Surajpur wetland. We plan to distribute 1,000 such nests to people,” said KK Singh, divisional forest officer (DFO), Gautam Budh Nagar.