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Villagers banish fire crackers to woo winged visitors

National, Sun, 14 Dec 2008 IANS

Vettangudi (Madurai), Dec 14 (IANS) Perched on the sprawling branches of a partially submerged tree, thousands of White Ibis migratory birds at the Vettangudi Bird Sanctuary here have the villagers to thank for making their winter home a noise-free zone.


The local folk have imposed a ban on the bursting of firecrackers in the region to make it conducive for the migratory birds after noticing a decline in their numbers.



'I have been watching these birds ever since I was a young boy. A few years ago we noticed a decline in their arrivals,' 68-year-old Venkataiah from the nearby Periya Kollukudi Patti village told IANS.



'The forest department informed us that it may be due to the rising noise levels. So the villagers and others in the district decided not to burst crackers at all.'



Venkataiah and his son are self-proclaimed caretakers of the birds. They say they can trace a bird a shore away and can ramble on about its migratory patterns.



'In our tradition we believe that the visitor or guest is god. These beautiful birds are equivalent to god for us and we want to safeguard their environment,' said 30-year-old Venkataiah junior.



The forest department has employed them as guides and trained them about the bird species and their migratory patterns.



'The birds, one of 23 bird species that take a strenuous flight from across the globe to the tropical forests of the Sivaganga district, are indebted to the villagers,' said Sivaganga district forest officer S.L. Gupta.



Experts feel that such attempts at the micro level can translate into a deeper and positive impact for wildlife.



'Apart from other causes, like food scarcity, water, general environment changes, noise pollution is a big reason that impacts migratory birds. If this is minimized even in just a single district, there will be a tremendous change for the betterment of these birds,' Ravi Singh, CEO and Secretary General of WWF India, told IANS.



Singh said that environmental changes like increase in noise and air pollution levels were resulting not only in the decline of the birds' migratory habits but also adversely impacting their breeding patterns at their home sites.



'So at such a time, it's good to hear of such a self-motivated change,' Singh said.



P. Chidambaram, the new union home minister and former finance minister, who hails from the district, came here for inaugurating the District Visitor's Centre near the sanctuary - it was a very 'hushed' affair.



'When the minister came around three months ago, unlike the usual jamboree and bursting of fire crackers, the villagers held a very simple celebration with no hullabaloo,' S.L. Gupta added with pride.



To ensure the birds come in for longer periods, the village has urged the collector that the three tanks or seasonal lakes of the sanctuary be made permanent by channelling water from the Vaigai river that flows across the region.



'Water plays a pivotal role in their dwelling sites. I feel the villagers' opinion on making the seasonal water lake permanent is a positive outlook to ensure that the birds sustain their migratory patterns. Such attempts can be exemplified on a bigger scale,' Ravi Singh said.


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