This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pranjal Begwani. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Of Sparrows And Cellular Towers: Just Naming Them Delhi”s State Bird Will Not Help Sparrows Survive

More from Pranjal Begwani

By Pranjal Begwani:

Delhi – once home to multitudes of the Passer domesticus, which a layman would identify as the House Sparrow, presents a contrast of sorts today. So much so, that catching a glimpse of a sparrow in Delhi’s parks and colonies, would be akin to a ‘rare sighting’ for a birdwatcher. Over the past few days, I spotted Blue Rock Pigeons and House Crows, (which as a matter of fact, do not require much of an effort), Common Mynahs and even a white-breasted kingfisher, but the elusive sparrow…sigh! It remained elusive.

In an attempt to create awareness about its decline, which has taken place at an alarming rate, the declaration of the sparrow as Delhi’s state bird was a step in the right direction. But was this initiative enough? If the Delhi government thought that simply making a declaration was enough to bring back the numbers, they couldn’t be more mistaken. Treating a public notification as a means and end for a species’ conservation doesn’t bode well for the future of the sparrow, in India’s national capital. And this definitely doesn’t account for the bird’s condition in other Indian towns and cities, where it may be worse off for want of even minimal awareness-generating political initiatives such as these.

sparrow

The reasons for the abatement of the innocuous, unassuming and chirpy little creature we call the sparrow, are multiple. Their decline can be attributed to more obvious causes such as uncontrolled environmental pollution, to reasons such as radiation emanating from cellular tower, unfriendly, indifferent human residents and glass, metal and concrete houses with few alcoves or spaces for sparrows to nest. Apart from pollution, the other most important reason is cellular tower radiation. This cause is as important as it is controversial, topical and hotly debated.

In recent times, radiation from cellular towers has been reported to be the cause of human cancers. Policemen posted near such towers complain that it is impossible in such postings, to stand for more than a few hours at a stretch. I stood in complete exposure to a cellular tower for less than half hour, and developed an acute headache. And others, usually with some vested interests in the telecom sector, discount any such effects of towers and attribute these to other causes. If humans seem to be so acutely affected by this radiation, so would most other animals and birds in urban habitats, which in all obviousness would include the sparrow. This cause is widely accepted while talking about sparrow numbers and their consequential decline, although there is no direct evidence to prove the same.

On a recent visit to a small town in Rajasthan with little more than 50,000 inhabitants, at least twenty such cellular towers were observed in the vicinity. Most were located at close proximity to each other. It was observed that in areas adjacent to these towers, the sparrow count was zilch while in distant areas it was fairly easy to spot sparrows. It would be nothing short of outrageous to call this a mere coincidence. Any rational minded being would understand the seriousness of the issue at hand.

cellular towerAtleast 4 towers, amidst human habitations, are visible in this single frame. For the keen eye, there are another two in the background. 

Birds have often been called the thermometers of the environment. When their frantic calls, shrill shrieks and soulful songs can be heard, one knows that the environment is still safe and fair, while in a contrasting situation it is evident that things have started to go wrong in the surrounding environs. The sparrow is a micro-example of the same. Its near disappearance from our city-scapes, notwithstanding token awareness measures, tells us that somewhere something is going wrong, whether it is rampant pollution or the proliferation of telephone towers.

Pollution can be controlled. Polluting industries can be clamped down upon, and fuel subsidies can definitely be reduced (though expecting a populist government to ‘eliminate’ them would be as ambitious as expecting sparrows to produce more progeny simply because they are now the Delhi state bird). Cellular towers cannot yet be eliminated but their numbers too can be reduced, with telecom companies operating on a sharing basis rather than via individual towers.

Humans have often been called selfish creatures. So even if we don’t strive to protect our sparrow friends, we can at least concern ourselves with safeguarding our own future. Even in going through with the latter, we would make sure that the sparrow is not relegated to nostalgia. If birds are endangered, in the long run humans are too. After all, the root causes are the same.

So let’s hear that chirp again!

Photo Credit: joeldinda via Compfight cc

You must be to comment.
  1. Aditi Thakker

    The number of sparrows in Mumbai has gone down over the years. I remember my times as a child when I could spot so many just outside my window, and now I literally see none. Sparrows are quite sensitive animals when it comes to waves from mobile towers, and they are visibly being harmed by it. As you mentioned, human too will face the repercussions of closely places mobile towers. But, we can’t do without mobiles too. People are ever complaining about network problems. What we need is a solution, where the two can co-exist.

  2. Baldeep Grewal

    Technology is a sweet sin. We can’t do without it yet having it in our lives causes so much destruction. I think instead of going all ‘destroy them towers’ and ‘knock down them chimneys’ we need to work a way around the situation which preserves the environment and serves our technological needs. If there were no towers, cellular or otherwise, whatever little connectivity that we do get in our impoverished nation will be lost too.

    1. Pranjal Begwani

      And that is exactly what I have mentioned in this article – “Cellular towers cannot yet be eliminated but their numbers too can be reduced, with telecom companies operating on a sharing basis rather than via individual towers.” An all out elimination is never a solution to any problem, but a slow reduction with parallel leaps in technology may definitely be a possibility. Cooperation between telecom companies and operating on a sharing basis can actually help do away with a lot of unecessary towers as mentioned.

More from Pranjal Begwani

Similar Posts

By ARUN KASHYAP

By Sheeva Yamuna

By Charkha features

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below