A bird sanctuary in the heart of a busy city (Letter from Chandigarh)

October 6th, 2008 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Oct 6 (IANS) In the heart of a bustling residential neighbourhood here exists a bird sanctuary - where at least 50,000 parrots dwell.Every morning, residents of the posh Sector 21 - one of the busiest areas of the city with over 25,000 people - wake up to the chirping of these parrots and other birds that live in the City Bird Sanctuary.

“With the rising tall structures in urban areas, slowly birds are losing their habitat. However, this sanctuary within the posh locality sets a precedent in how birds and human beings can co-exist,” said Rohit Ruhella, an environmentalist based in Chandigarh.

Ishwar Singh, conservator, forests, and chief warden, wildlife, told IANS: “The posh locality boasts of a canopy of green cover, and birds, particularly parrots, have made it their habitat. The forest department officials took notice of this fact and marked 2.9 hectares as a bird sanctuary in 1998.

In Chandigarh, around 180 species of birds are found and most of these species have made this sanctuary their habitat, including owls, sparrows, mynahs and pigeons. However, parrots form the majority.

“Around 50,000 to 60,000 parrots are living in the sanctuary and its adjoining areas,” said Singh.

The sanctuary is governed by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Visiting times are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and no weapons, explosives and chemicals are allowed inside. Some of the area comes under the adjoining government school, but still it is regulated under the wildlife act.

“We have not done anything to bring any bird here as they have themselves chosen this as their habitat. It was quite exceptional as out of 1,900 parks in the city, the birds chose this area,” said Singh.

“One more exceptional thing about this sanctuary is that you will find scores of birds sitting on eucalyptus trees - normally a very rare sight,” said Singh.

The forest department has also ensured that the residents of the area enjoy nature’s bounty and has made cemented tracks and sheds inside the sanctuary, which also doubles up as a park.

The noticeable thing in the sanctuary is the height of the light posts, which are not higher than three feet.

“Birds also have their own lifestyle and breeding cycle and the presence of lights can disturb them and even force them to leave the sanctuary. So we installed short light posts here,” said Singh.

Some residents resisted and demanded the setting up of tall light posts in the sanctuary but due to the timely intervention of the forest department, the problem was taken care of.

“Most people living here are nature lovers. The birds act as a biological alarm clock in the morning and wake us up!” said Monica Sethi, a resident.

Deepak Kothari, another resident, said: “It is a rejuvenating and soothing experience to stroll in the sanctuary early morning.”

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