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World Environment Day: Flight of feathers cut short by plastic trap

By, New Delhi
Jun 05, 2023 12:37 PM IST

On World Environment Day, observed on June 5, avid bird watchers and amateur photographers are displaying their works at an exhibition in Delhi. Their photographs show how the country’s rich avian life is unable to fight plastic that has become a part of their habitat due to its reckless use by humans.

Fancy an afternoon admiring birds? If so, think again before rampantly using non-biodegradable goods and recklessly discarding plastic. Some of the devastating consequences of such follies by humans and their effect on the avian population have been captured by avid birders and are on display at the exhibition, titled A Wasted Flight: Birds in Plastic Waste.

Bird watcher Avadesh Malik’s photograph of a Steppe Eagle sitting on garbage, captured on the outskirts of Ranikhet in Uttarakhand, narrates the ill-effects of plastic pollution on avian life.

“The idea was to click the ugly and unnoticed side of bird photography,” says Avadesh Malik, an amateur bird watcher from the Facebook group, Indian Birds. His photograph of a Steppe Eagle sitting on a pile of plastic bags in Uttarakhand’s Ranikhet, shows the contrast between the bird’s ferocious nature and its helplessness due to being entrapped. “The bird’s blink was captured the moment I pressed the shutter, which signifies its displeasure of being in a pile of plastic. It’s like a disappointment towards humans who offer such hospitality to the eagles who are otherwise usually perceived as powerful, majestic hunters,” adds Malik.

Indian Pitta as captured by birder Prashant Pansari while picking up a plastic wrapper in Jaipur’s Jhalana Forest Reserve Area.
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Another snap captured from deep inside the Jhalana Reserve Forest Area in Jaipur. “The plastic wrapper that the Indian Pitta holds in its beak, is a grave concern,” shares Prashant Pansari, a birding enthusiast from Jaipur, who is a jeweller by profession. He adds, “I was thrilled to see the bird at such proximity and hence I immediately took my position to capture a beautiful, grounded eye-level shot of this bird. I initially thought it’s picking up a leaf or twig to build its nest. But, as I zoomed my camera lens on it, I saw it had picked up a plastic wrapper! The fact that this piece of plastic reached so deep in the forest is a reason for concern. These birds usually gather medium to big sized leaves and twigs from the jungle bed to make their nests. But now, they have adapted themselves to use plastic for the same purpose, which is nothing but a repercussion of our actions and is deeply saddening.”

Mistaking it to be a fish, as per Col Pankaj Sharma, a River Tern at Haryana’s Chandu Budhera flies off with a plastic wrapper in its beak.
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Having captured another similar incident, where the bird was in flight, retired Army colonel Pankaj Sharma says, “A River Tern at Haryana’s Chandu Budhera was once picking up a plastic pouch, mistaking it for a fish. I immediately captured the moment through my lens to show the looming threat on the endangered species because of the faults of human beings.”

The photos therefore heighten the concern about the pressing issue of plastic being entangled with the lives of avifauna, as Bharati Chaturvedi, curator of the exhibition, adds, “We have been talking about single-use plastic since years! Yet, we have it as a primary element in a majority of our product building and packaging industries. That’s what makes things unsafe... The photographs displayed here are all clicked by commoners who have a knack for birding. Both, the eyes and the heart, pains from the sight seen during their birding hours.”

Catch It Live

What: A Wasted Flight: Birds in Plastic Waste

Where: Outdoor Spaces, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road

On till: June 10

Timing: 8am to 6pm

Nearest Metro Station: Jorbagh on Yellow Line and JLN Stadium on Violet Line

Author tweets @maisha_scribbles

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