Author Profile

Ritu Dhingra

A Lawyer, Ecologist, Environmentalist and Researcher in the field of law and environment. M.A in Sociology, LLM from Kurukshetra University and has done Journalism from Indian Institute of Journalism. Has directed various News films based on Law for TV channels.

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Ritu Dhingra

house sparrowCONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO :

Disappearance of house sparrow

I am writing this article in the interest of society at large and for the conservation and protection of house sparrows which are disappearing from the region of Delhi at a very fast pace. These birds, being an indicator of environmental health, need to be saved before they can be seen only in books or on the internet. Little attention has been given to research and practical conservation measures for sparrows and common birds. . It’s only ignored because it’s common; it has little glamour as compared to other species. There is little awareness with regard to the ecological role it plays. House sparrows being a common bird are not considered important from the scientific point of view also.

House sparrows do not live in jungles, deserts or places where humans are not present. The sparrow is a species that has evolved with humans and is always found in and around human habitations. The house sparrow is a confirmed hanger on to man ever since human habitation started depending on agriculture. It has even been mentioned in most of our Mythologies and Folklores, along with the Common crow, Eagles and other such birds, which used to exist in close proximity to human dwellings. It was once a very common bird all over the country whether it was a bustling urban area or a small hamlet. For generations, house sparrows have added child-like freshness to households with their presence. Scientists and experts say that severe changes in the urban ecosystem in recent times have had tremendous impact on the population of house sparrows whose numbers are declining constantly.

Being a naturalist and  a lawyer by profession and I have been observing this phenomenon for the last two to three years, but since there were no steps taken by the concerned authorities to conserve this species of bird I wanted to create an awareness amongst the common people by writing this article.

 

Till four to five years ago, it was not difficult to find house sparrows in Delhi but now, one could hardly trace any flocks of sparrows, it is even difficult to locate a solitary house sparrow easily. Slowly and gradually this species of sparrow has become critically endangered in the region of Delhi. There is no awareness amongst the people for such disappearance of the house sparrows. People today are too busy in their everyday humdrum and have little time to think about birds.

According to a study the advent of man-made threats like the rising numbers of mobile phone towers and microwave pollution is silent killer of sparrows. Mosquito coils, cell phone radiation and automobile exhaust of vehicles running on lead-free petrol could also be major factors. Rapid urbanization, lack of nesting grounds due to increased concrete structures; excessive use of pesticides, exotic plants replacing native plants has created obstacles in habitat of the birds resulting thereby decreasing their number to a great extent.

As per a study the mobile phone towers emit a frequency of 900-1800 MHz, continuous penetration of EMR (electromagnetic radiation) through the body of birds would affect their nervous system and their navigational skills. They become incapable for navigation and foraging. The birds which nests near towers are found  to leave the nest within one week.  No measures are being taken by the concerned departments for bringing back the birds. No efforts are carried on by the concerned authorities for the rehabilitation of the house sparrows.

 

The source of information of the facts stated in this article are based on my personal experience and I have also verified the facts by personally visiting various places  in Delhi and also by personally talking to other people all over Delhi, regarding the disappearance of the house sparrows. And their observation is also the same.  Various reports and articles published on the internet websites also support my article since these birds are disappearing in many other cities in the world. I want to draw the attention of common people at this, since this decline in the number of house sparrows seems to be a common phenomenon in the urban areas across the country. More so, this decline in the number of house sparrows is a significant bio -indicator that there is something wrong in the whole ecosystem and there is some degradation in the urban environment which could be or is harmful for human beings as well. When our environment is not able to support the survival of a small sparrow then it is a matter of great concern.

I think that the concerned authorities must establish the reasons for the disappearance of the house sparrows and special efforts should be taken by concerned authorities to bring back the house sparrows in the city. Awareness amongst the common man must be generated with the help of media and other agencies for the conservation of house sparrows. Every year an inventory of birds of different species residing in Delhi should be drafted after counting the number of birds and the reports should be published in the newspapers along with other journals and websites also, so as to create an awareness amongst the people for the protection of the birds in Delhi.

 

I want to further expatiate the legal implication attached to this article is based on the following sections of various acts which cover the above stated problem:

 

(A)  Section 36, 38 and section 39 of the Biological Diversity act 2002. The sections are as follows;

 

 DUTIES OF THE CENTRAL AND THE STATE GOVERNMENTS

36. (1) The Central Government shall develop national strategies, plans, programmes for the conservation and promotion and sustainable use of biological diversity including measures for identification and monitoring of areas rich in biological resources, promotion of in situ, and ex situ, conservation of biological resources, incentives for research, training and public education to increase awareness with respect to biodiversity.

 

(2) Where the Central Government has reason to believe that any rich in biological diversity, biological resources and their habitats is being threatened by overuse, abuse or neglect, it shall issue directives to the concerned State Government to take immediate ameliorative measures; offering such State Government any technical and other assistance that is possible to be provided or needed.

(3) The Central Government shall, as far as practicable wherever it deems appropriate, integrate the conservation, promotion and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies.

(4) The Central Government shall undertake measures, –

(i) wherever necessary, for assessment of environmental impact of that project which is likely to have adverse effect on biological diversity, with a view to avoid or minimize such effects and where appropriate provide for public participation in such assessment;

(ii) to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology likely to have adverse impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and human health.

 

(5) The Central Government shall endeavour to respect and protect the knowledge of local people relating to biological diversity, as recommended by the National Biodiversity Authority through such measures, which may include registration of such knowledge at the local, State or national levels, and other measures for protection, including sui generic system.

38. Without prejudice to the provisions of any other law for the time being in force, the Central Government, in consultation with the concerned State Government, may from time to time notify any species which is on the verge of extinction or likely to become extinct in the near future as a threatened species and prohibit or regulate collection thereof for any purpose and take appropriate steps to rehabilitate and preserve those species.

39. (1) The Central Government may, in consultation with the National Biodiversity Authority, designate institutions as repositories under this Act for different categories of biological resources.

(2) The repositories shall keep in safe custody the biological material including voucher specimens deposited with them.

 

(B)  The relevant provisions of the constitution of India are as follows;

 

a) The State’s responsibility with regard to environmental protection has been laid down under Article 48-A of our Constitution, which reads as follows:

“The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”.

 

b) Environmental protection is a fundamental duty of every citizen of this country under Article 51-A(g) of our Constitution which reads as follows:

 

“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”

The 42nd amendment to the Constitution was brought about in the year 1974 makes it the responsibility of the State Government to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. The latter, under Fundamental Duties, makes it the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the environment.

(C) Section 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986. The section reads as follows:

3. POWER OF CENTRAL GOVERNMENT TO TAKE MEASURES TO PROTECT AND IMPROVE ENVIRONMENT

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government, shall have the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing controlling and abating environmental pollution.

(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (1), such measures may include measures with respect to all or any of the following matters, namely:–

(i) Co-ordination of actions by the State Governments, officers and other authorities–

(a) Under this Act, or the rules made there under, or

(b) Under any other law for the time being in force which is relatable to the objects of this Act;

(ii) Planning and execution of a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;

(iii) Laying down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects;

(iv) Laying down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources whatsoever:

Provided that different standards for emission or discharge may be laid down under this clause from different sources having regard to the quality or composition of the emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from such sources;

(v) restriction of areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards;

(vi) Laying down procedures and safeguards for the prevention of accidents which may cause environmental pollution and remedial measures for such accidents;

(vii) Laying down procedures and safeguards for the handling of hazardous substances;

(viii) Examination of such manufacturing processes, materials and substances as are likely to cause environmental pollution;

(ix) Carrying out and sponsoring investigations and research relating to problems of environmental pollution;

(x) Inspection of any premises, plant, equipment, machinery, manufacturing or other processes, materials or substances and giving, by order, of such directions to such authorities, officers or persons as it may consider necessary to take steps for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;

(xi) Establishment or recognition of environmental laboratories and institutes to carry out the functions entrusted to such environmental laboratories and institutes under this Act;

(xii) Collection and dissemination of information in respect of matters relating to environmental pollution;

(xiii) Preparation of manuals, codes or guides relating to the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution;

(xiv) Such other matters as the Central Government deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of securing the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act.

I hope that in near future we can do something about conserving and saving our precious biodiversity, which we are losing at a very fast pace. House sparrow is only one life form on whose disappearance, I, tried to throw some light but there are other life forms which are even lesser known and which we have already lost by now. Other life forms which are disappearing from the urban environment are bees and butterflies and reasons which are currently known are the electromagnetic radiations from the cell phone towers. In the next article I will try to explain the detailed reasons for the same.


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