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Bring back the birds and bees

 Conserving biodiversity in the city is the need of the hour. Today is International Day for Biological Diversity The sounds of Nature are drowned in the constant drone of the city. Birdsong morphs into automobile honks and the only insect sounds are those from mobile phones. The city is now like an android age Pacman, eating up every bit of greenery in its way. Fields, mangroves and wetlands have tried and failed to resist a concrete invasion. Even homes, which had gardens and groves earlier, now have open spaces that are tiled. Biodiversity is all very well, but who wants creepy crawlies in their courtyards?

 

Kochi’s biodiversity is constantly being challenged by rapid urbanisation, says C.R. Neelakandan Namboothiri, environmentalist. “Our backwaters are almost dead. Many species of fresh water fish have disappeared. Unchecked pollution and encroachments have led to the destruction of the Edappally and Perandoor canals, which were eco-systems by themselves. Because of their link with the backwaters, they were home to a number of fish. Now, they remain stagnant.” Trees are being felled for the Metro rail project and planting saplings for each fallen tree may seem like a solution.

 

But it does not negate the damage that has been caused, Neelakandan says. “A tree is one of the most perfect examples of biodiversity. It is home for hundreds of insects, birds, creatures and plants.” In-situ conservation, he stresses, is the way forward. “Let Nature be as it is. Let the plants along with their micro eco-systems grow naturally.” The concept of biodiversity conservation has to go beyond our forests, says Sanjayan Kumar, deputy director of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. “Conservation has to be brought to the cities. We have to adopt a green lifestyle. Preserve and maintain home gardens and reduce carbon footprint by using fewer vehicles. For instance, four people from the same house can use one vehicle instead of four.

 

Conserve water and practise waste segregation. It is time for a complete transformation of our lifestyle,” he says. The gradual disappearance of sparrows and foxes indicate the seriousness of the situation, he points out. “Everyone has a role to play in conservation, irrespective of age and social standing. We have a long way to go. Visiting forests should not be treated as a picnic, but as an ecological pilgrimage,” he says. Business enterprises with a ‘green’ tag say they do their bit towards conservation. Jose Dominic, managing director of the cgh earth group of hotels, says the organisation believes in serving the planet along with the customer. It is based on the principles of respecting the environment, the local community and adopting local ethos. It has a ripple effect because the staff is in some way influenced by these principles, too.

 

“They gradually adopt these values in their personal spaces,” Dominic says. The destruction of sacred groves ( sarpakaavukal ) has contributed in a big way to the loss of greenery and natural habitats for birds and animals, says Sathi Devi S., a teacher of Malayalam at the Bhavan’s Adarsha Vidyalaya, Kakkanad, who was instrumental in planting a ‘mini forest’ in the arid school land. “Those who still live in houses, which have ponds and sacred groves, should preserve them,” she says. “Children these days have never seen or heard creatures such as ant lions and cicadas. It is impossible to resist development. But a common man can contribute to biodiversity conservation in his own way by devoting a small space for greenery in his home,” says the winner of the Vanamitra Award, 2010. One can begin by planting indigenous herbs, shrubs and trees in one’s courtyard.

 

They would attract birds and small creatures. Provide bird baths. “Birds need privacy. So offer a shade to the bird bath,” Sathi Devi says. Those living in apartments can do the same in the open spaces in their neighbourhood. Let natural weeds grow, as they are not harmful to the environment. Encourage children to plant and care for trees. “Gift children a sapling on their birthdays and teach them to care for the plant,” Sathi Devi says. “It is all as simple as this…,” says Wayanad-based photographer Arun V.C., whose most recent frames capture insects and small creatures. “Their lives are as important as ours. They feel the same pain, joy and hunger as we do. Respect that.”

 

 Hindu, Delhi, Tuesday 22th May 2014