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Chandigarh’s Sector 21: They dwell with parrots here

The denizens of Sector 21 have the luxury of waking up to the chirping of thousands of parrots that live on a patch, now notified as a sanctuary, in their locality.

punjab Updated: Sep 05, 2018 13:03 IST
Vidhya Narayanan
Vidhya Narayanan
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Chandigarh,Chandigarh Bird Club,sector 21
(HT Photo)

While residents of most other sectors are woken up by the hustle and bustle of city life, the denizens of Sector 21 have the luxury of waking up to the chirping of thousands of parrots that live on a patch, now notified as a sanctuary, in their locality.

These birds, experts say, have been living here even before Chandigarh was born. “They are natural habitants of the place. They have neither been brought from some other place, nor are they migratory birds,” says MS Sekhon, president of the Chandigarh Bird Club, and head of the geography department at DAV College, Sector 10.

“There must have been an orchard here and the early generations may have made this their home. But now, years on, the new generations of parrots continue to live here because of what I presume is a genetic memory passed on by the previous generations,” Sekhon explains.

It’s perhaps the only sanctuary in the country that is located in the midst of a thickly populated city. The forest department notified 2.9 hectares of the area for the sanctuary in 1998. Of this, 1.8 hectares is open to citizens and the rest is restricted under Chapter IV of the Wildlife Act (1972) Act.

“The best time to catch a glimpse of these parrots is at daybreak and just before sunset. These parrots are just like humans. They leave their homes in the morning to find food, just like humans go to earn their bread and butter in the morning, and return home at dusk,” says Sekhon. Visit the park at any other time of the day, and you are likely to be disappointed.

“The only time of the year when you can find these parrots frequenting their homes is in the nesting season, from March to May, when they keep coming back to feed their young ones,” Sekhon adds.

It hasn’t been a smooth flight for these birds amid the growing number of humans around them. In the late 2000s, Harman Singh Sidhu, an activist who has lived in the area since childhood, noticed that the parrots had stopped coming to the sanctuary, and this was soon after the Chandigarh municipal corporation installed high-mast poles in the area.

Upon consulting some bird experts over the internet, he found out that the parrots may have been disturbed by the newly installed lights that affected their sleep cycle.

“Parrots follow a photoperiodic time table, which essentially means that they are awake from sunrise to sunset and sleep from sunset to sunrise,” says Sidhu, who is better known now for his NGO ArriveSafe.

“We, then, brought it to the notice of the then UT administrator General SF Rodrigues (retd), who ordered the removal of these lights,” recalls Sidhu.

It wasn’t the end of their troubles though. Later, there were talks about setting up an e-Sampark Centre, besides raising other construction in the park, until it was finally notified as an eco-sensitive zone by the Centre in 2017. The move raised several hackles as the notification brought several houses, a government school and a Nirankari Darbar in the area, under the zone. This meant that there could be no loud music or fireworks in the area. Besides, use of plastic bags, hazardous substances and movement of vehicular traffic also got regulated.

Sidhu says the move was necessary. “The parrot numbers have been coming down. We need to protect their natural habitat.”

A clean sector

It is perhaps because of this eco-sensitive tag that this sector has a very serene vibe to it. Drive through the sector and you will be greeted by beautifully built houses, well-manicured green lawns and lush neighbourhood parks.

One of the oldest sectors in the city, Sector 21 is also known to be one of its most posh addresses with no houses under 10 marla.

Asha Jaswal, the area councillor and former mayor of the city, says, “The sector is home to several high-profile lawyers and doctors.” Attributing this to its proximity to high court, the bus stand in Sector 17 and the popular Aroma Hotel in Sector 22, Jaswal says the sector became more sought-after following the high court order shifting the scooter market out of the area.

“When the scooter market was functioning from here, residents were much hassled due to pollution and cleanliness concerns. It was very difficult to move around the place. But once the shops were shifted, more people started seeking homes here.”

The sector, says Jaswal, is also well-known for its community culture. “The residents have a sense of responsibility to the community. There is a home for the differently abled in the sector, which is being run from a house in Sector 21-A, in coordination with the UT administration. There are around 20 inmates in the home and arrangements for food and other basic necessities for them are made by the neighbours and residents themselves.”

Community culture

Another important feature of this sector is its proactive residents’ welfare association (RWA), which has been shouldering the responsibility for maintaining and cleaning the area.

“In all other sectors of the city, the maintenance of parks is done by the municipal corporation. But in our sector, the residents welfare association takes care of the task,” says Sandeep Bhalla, secretary of the RWA.

“We have hired 10 employees, including a gardener, for the upkeep of the parks and five years ago, our sector even won a prize during the rose festival in the category of best neighbourhood parks,” he beams.

“Besides, we bought a grass-cutting machine worth ₹8 lakh, for the upkeep of parks. After the grass is mowed, we put it in a pit and use it as mulch,” he says.

Down the memory lane

Bhalla remembers how sparsely populated the sector was when they came here in 1965.

“My father bought the plot for ₹ 6,000 in 1965 and the construction of the house cost us around ₹40,000 in all. At that time, a 1-kanal plot cost around ₹7,500-8,000, but we decided against buying it as there were not many houses in that stretch,” he says.

“Back then, the administration used to give plots at cheap rates and even offer loans to people to construct their homes, but look at how the rates have shot up now,” Bhalla says. A 10-marla house in the area now costs ₹ 3 crore and the cost can vary depending upon the availability of parking space, etc.

Old-timers recall the days when people used to run schools in their homes. Ajay Arora, owner of Capital Book Depot and a resident of the area, remembers one such school called Gyaan Deep. “It was shut after the administration issued orders against running schools from houses,” he recounts.

The sector currently has three schools—government model senior secondary school, Manav Mangal School and Ishwar Singh Senior Secondary School.

Owing to its proximity to Sector 34, which has a large number of coaching centres, Sector 21 is now emerging as the new PG hub of the city. Always changing, yet unchanged. That’s this sector for you.

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 13:03 IST

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