The sparrows still chirp away in Lucknow
By Mohit Dubey, Lucknow, March 21 : In a first, residents of this Uttar Pradesh capital, along with zoologists, bird lovers and environmentalists have conducted a head count of sparrows - the household 'gauraiyya' - the numbers of which are dwindling alarmingly worldwide.
The census was conducted at some important places in the city Wednesday, which was World Sparrow Day. The results show 1,857 birds were spotted at places like Mahanagar, IT Chauraha, Haunman Setu, Aliganj, Niralanagar and other vantage localities.
The census was done through SMS, email and physical verification by the zoology department of Lucknow University's regional science centre and the state bio-diversity board.
The census began at 7 a.m., and went on for an hour. It is in the morning hours that the birds set out to find insects to feed on, and that is the best time for spotting them, a zoologist explained.
The zoology department had initially distributed detailed forms for the census. Members of the 70-strong string team told IANS that they were "pleasantly surprised by the feedback and the concern for the 'gauraiyya'".
"We were flooded by mails, SMSes and scanned copies of the census forms," said Sonika Kushwaha, a member of the Save Sparrow team.
She said even people from the villages near the state capital joined enthusiastically in the census work.
"We had appealed to the residents of the city to spare half-an-hour for the sake of the household bird which now faces extinction," an activist said, adding that the "overwhelming response was a good indicator and spells hope for both sparrow conservation and environment protection."
The census found larger numbers of sparrows in greener and quieter localities like Daliganj, Hariharnagar, Babuganj, Premnagar and some sectors of Gomtinagar and Triveninagar.
This, activists point out, was largely due to traditional beliefs that the presence of the bird means good tidings and a healthy environment, which are more commonly held in middle and lower-middle class localities.
"We noticed that in many places, mostly the outskirts of the city, the birds were provided artificial nests in shoe boxes, cardboard creations and on balconies and were fed food and water," Anuja, an activist, said.
Amita Kanaujia, associate professor with the zoology department, said the census so far was heartening, and hoped that the final count, once known, would be cause for celebration.
The team conducting the census said, however, that even though more sparrows were sighted than expected, a census of the bird had never been taken before, so there was no way of saying with certainty if Lucknow's sparrow population was growing or dwindling.
The interest of the people in the conservation of the sparrow however, was "surprising and heartening", people engaged in the census said.
Pratibha Singh, director of the Uttar Pradesh State Bio-Diversity Board, said: "Realisation that even birds and animals need space and protection on earth is fast gathering pace; that augurs well for conservation of many species that face danger."
The first World Sparrow Day was observed March 20, 2010 to create awareness of the dwindling numbers of the bird and educate people on the need for its conservation.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)