Can we save the sparrow ?

The House Sparrow was indeed one of the commonest urban birds in India when Salim Ali was a boy. The recent years have witnessed a perplexing decline in the number of the House Sparrow in many parts of the country (and elsewhere abroad). It is indeed a matter of concern that the population of House Sparrow has dwindled. However, the paranoia set-off by the news media has only resulted in an outburst of ill-founded speculations about the possible causes of the decline and that the decline itself is signalling an imminent ecological disaster.

Loss of tree cover, changing architecture of human habitation that has deprived the House Sparrows of nesting sites, excessive use of pesticides, lack of traditional granaries, grocery shops and storehouses that permit gleaning of grains by birds, air pollution and electromagnetic radiation2 have all been identified as the culprits. The paranoia about vanishing House Sparrows reminds me of the alarm bells that desperately rang nearly 20 years ago of ‘declining’ amphibian populations.3 The alarm bells succeeded in establishing the Declining Amphibian Population Task Force (DAPTF) as a specialized and dedicated unit within the IUCN. No sooner, global warming, UV-B radiation, outbreak of a dreaded fungus, pesticide poisoning, over-harvest (including biological collections), etc. were listed as probable causes for the decline of the amphibians3–5. Scientific investigations did support the view that one or more of the listed causes adversely impacted amphibians throughout the world, although the intensity of a specific cause varied locally.

House SparrowHouse Sparrow

Exclusive focus on amphibians did provide a number of new insights about their biology and ecology. It also led to the discovery of species that had not been described by taxonomists earlier. Unfortunately, however, the quest for finding ‘new’ species of amphibians soon overshadowed the primary purpose of DAPTF that in some parts of the world, especially in India and Sri Lanka (biodiversity hotspots), biologists have shifted their focus from attempting to understand and mitigate the root causes of amphibian declines to merely collecting, naming and renaming species6. The shift in focus has been justified as a ‘mission to document the species before they are lost’7.

In the absence of sound data on population dynamics and geographical distribution, it has not been possible to assert that there have indeed been declines in amphibian numbers anywhere in India. Lack of scientific information has also stood in the way of attributing apparent declines to any specific environmental cause popularly cited. A study carried out in 2002–03 in the Western Ghats, in one of the most highly pesticide-impacted tea landscapes, identified loss of habitat as the primary local threat to amphibian species5. The study brought to light major gaps in our understanding of amphibian ecology.

Ecology, especially of anurans, requires field studies of the habitat requirement, availability and use by a species throughout its life history. It is embarrassing to learn that the habitat requirement of even the most common species of amphibian is not fully understood8. Having learnt important lessons from the study of amphibians, I wish to caution that the pursuit to correlate environmental factors such as electromagnetic radiation with declining populations will sooner or later lead to intrusive experiments involving the House Sparrow and other birds.

Electromagnetic radiation is naturally emitted by the sun and reaches the earth in millions of measurable units every second. Radio waves and microwaves have been used in telecommunication for a long time. Radio-telemetry has become increasingly popular in wildlife biological research. Telecommunication involves the conversion of audio-visual (and ultrasound) signals into electromagnetic signals that travel at the speed of light.

If these signals are deleterious to birds, they should be so to a number of other animals that share urban landscapes with humans. Why must the House Sparrow be vulnerable when crows, pigeons, owls, mynas, bats and geckoes have not succumbed to electromagnetic radiation that is attributed to telecommunication? The decline of the House Sparrow can be better explained if some of the more obvious attributes are analysed. For this we may first consider its lineage. A rather diverse group of birds representing at least 8 genera are called sparrows9–11. The species of sparrows pertinent to the discussion are those belonging the genus Passer and with the exception of the House Sparrow, all are subtropical and temperate in distribution.

At least six species of Passer have been reported from the Indian subcontinent. Besides the House Sparrow, these include the Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), Sind Sparrow (P. pyrrhonotus), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (P. montanus), Russet or Cinnamon Tree Sparrow (P. rutilans) and Dead Sea or Afghan Scrub Sparrow (P. moabiticus)9,10. The Spanish Sparrow is a winter visitor to northern India. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow that is generally a northern species, has a small resident population in peninsular India10. Sind, Russet and Dead Sea sparrows are not known in peninsular India.

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Bomb blasts rock New Delhi, 18 killed, dozens injured

A series of five synchronised bomb blasts ripped through crowded markets in the Indian capital New Delhi on Saturday, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens more.Police said a further three unexploded devices were found and defused, including one at India Gate, one of the country’s most iconic monuments and a major tourist attraction in the heart of Delhi.
A Muslim militant outfit, Indian Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the bombings, which were all triggered within a 45-minute period.”In the name of Allah, the Indian Mujahideen has struck back again. Do whatever you want. Stop us if you can,” the group said in an email sent to several media outlets minutes before the first blast at 6:30 pm (1300 GMT).
These blasts in Delhi shows that terrorist are not afraid of any of our security agencies. We should now learn to live in fear or give them a befitting reply to them. And that requires political will. The chocie is ours. How much should a common man suffer. Have we become spineless creatures and have no respect for human life. How much more loss do we have to suffer before we will start giving these terrorist a reply in their own pill. How much longer our leaders will take to WAKE UP to this danger and leave their petty politics aside and work on something concrete to fight this evil. These terrorists are no humans and as such they have no Human Rights. These terrorists should be killed. PERIOD. And for the politicians…. When people of India see that terrorists are being eliminated then they will give you VOTES (now they might listen).

DAY 40….960 hrs….57,600 mins hungry


The images are distressing. Two men lie in hospital beds surrounded by their friends. The men barely move, too weak to even sit up. Occasionally, perhaps, one of them will move his head slowly. The friends stroke their foreheads or else rub their feet.

This is a hunger-strike for the YouTube generation. The two men – Dawa Lepcha and Tenzing Gvasto Lepcha – whose protest has been posted on the popular online video site, have not eaten for 39 days. Doctors at the hospital where they lie in the remote Indian state of Sikkim say they are getting weaker each day. There are serious concerns about the functioning of the men’s kidneys.
The cause that has led these two men to take this drastic action and for their friends to post this powerful video on the internet is the very land on which they and their families live. A massive hydro-electric power scheme backed by the state government, consisting of more than 20 individual projects, threatens to drive the men and their neighbours from the land close to the Teesta river in the Dzongu region of the state. Campaigners say the project is illegal and claim the authorities have failed to obtain the necessary assessment of the impact the schemes will have.
This land is not only pristine – including as it does parts of a national park on which lies the world’s third- highest mountain and a biosphere reserve – but to the people of the region it is also sacred.
The two men refusing food are both Lepcha, the indigenous people who have lived on the mountains for centuries and whose name for the region, Mayel Luang, roughly translates as “paradise”. Some clans believe they were created by mother nature, others that mother nature created two deities who then created the Lepcha. The massive Kangchenjunga, reaching up to 28,169 feet, is considered holy.
The government believes that the Teesta is ideal for generating electricity because the river plunges down deep gorges, dropping 13,123 feet (4,000 metres) over its initial 50 miles.
In a statement, the state government said it had initiated hydro-electricity schemes to utilise the available natural resource to attain self-reliance, in order to raise the Sikkimese people’s socio-economic position and generate adequate revenue for the state.
But the Lepchas are not convinced. Sherab Lepcha, worried about the fate of his friends in the hospital, added: “If the people are driven off the land, there will be nowhere for cultivation. There will be nowhere to go.”

If this is “satyagrah”…whats wrong with the nation…the nation of mahatma …
mahatma Gandhi

First video interview with sound

we the people

In this April the film stars in India where all in news. Be it an icon of south India cinema. He died after an illness and his grieving fans where on a rampage in Bangalore. The state infrastructure was clearly not ready for it. The police seem to be handicap in front of the mob. One was sentenced to five year in prison for hunting and killing an antelope listed as an endangered species. And still other spent some time in hospital after crash landing his bike on a Mumbai road.

One reason for extended coverage given to these events has to do with national priorities. Politics, cricket, and films are the things that excites Indians. If there was one star, however, who mad news for right reasons in April was Amir khan. He spent time with some victims of the 2002’s Gujarat Riots in early April. A few days later he spoke about Sardar Sarovar Dam. His activitism may, as some critics say, have to do with a desire to generate positive publicity for himself. I believe that entertainers have a responsibility towards socity.Indeed it would be unfair to dismiss a mans view just because he is a star. Marlon Brando refused an Oscar(for godfather) as a protest against the way US was treating Polynesian Indians. Bono has his views on poverty and third world debt and he is feted, not ridiculed for it.

why must Amir khan be treated any differently ???

“ho chuki ab peer parwat si pighalni chahiye

tere seene men sahi ya mere seene sahi ho kahin bhi aag par aag jalni chahiye”