“I have been a patient of blood cancer since 2013, but I never stopped dreaming, making plans and finding ways to save the birds. Always remember how important your life is; do not forget it, even for a second.“ – Narendra Singh Yadav, former officer, Blood Cancer patient and a sparrow-saver.
Humans have lived in close harmony with the adorable little birds, sparrows for about 10,000 years. Since then, humans and sparrows are living an integral life. There are many stories of love with these birds. But, I’m sharing here a completely different and extraordinary story of love with sparrows. This is an inspirational story of a senior government officer of India. He has blood cancer and is facing many kinds of physical problems because of regular chemotherapy and medicines.
But, he is a very positive personality and has dedicated his life to protect the sparrows (Passer domesticus indicus) which are rarely seen in cities. He is Mr Narendra Singh Yadav. He was posted as Divisional Joint Development Commissioner in the government of Uttar Pradesh province, India, due to his continuous illness he has taken voluntary retirement.
He lives in Kanpur with his wife Mrs Rashmi Singh and two young daughters, Prachi and Pragya. The whole family is dedicated to protecting sparrows. Apart from studying, his daughters are actively involved in maintaining the records of nests and chicks and preparing food for them. His wife Rashmi looks after both his mission and home.
He distributes special sparrow nests, free of cost. Houses in his neighbourhood, colonies, societies and multi-storey buildings—all have these nests on the walls. He takes care of the injured and sick birds. He is known to his friends as ‘Sparrow Man‘.
Since childhood, he has been a nature lover. Mr Singh has saved more than 150,000 sparrows and distributed over 6000 nests since 2013. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2013. Since then, he used 10% of his salary for saving these birds and making nests for them.
His family organizes dinner and distributes sweets when chicks come out of these nests, for the first time and also give them name as humans do. The names of some chicks who are now grown into sparrows are Pawan, Saurabh, Mayank, Dulari, Vineeta, Arjun, Rohit, Reena, Darsh, Avantika, Rohan, Rajat, Priya, Krishna, Priyanka, etc. He was inspired by late CL Khanna who was working for the conservation of Sparrows for many years; he was a big name in the field of conservation of Sparrows in Kanpur.
During his service, Mr Singh tried to maintain a green habitat fit for Sparrows at his office, work field, residential colony and native villages. He is also working for biodiversity conservation and has created micro-forests of a total 30 acres area in his parental villages Palia and Aasatmuddinpur of Bangermau tehsil, district Unnao (Uttar Pradesh, India). In these forests, there are more than 3000 plants of medicinal and mythological importance.
He organises the anti-deforestation Red Tape Movement in his native villages regularly. There he talks to the villagers about the importance of trees, birds, biodiversity, wetlands, rivers, water conservation, sanitation, health, climate change and global warming.
He is working on sparrow conservation through Santulan Society, an NGO based in Indira Nagar, Kanpur. This NGO is a self-funded non-profit. Due to his great efforts, his mission to save sparrows has now been spread in many districts of Uttar Pradesh like Etawah, Auraiya, Kanpur Dehat, Kannauj, Kanpur Nagar, Farrukabad, Unnao, Hardoi, Lucknow, Kasganj, Mathura, Agra, etc.
According to Mr Singh, in our busy lives, we have lost the bond with sparrows. The sparrows have been on the decline over much of its natural range, both in the urban and rural areas. Loss of habitat due to anthropogenic activities is the main cause of their disappearance. The decline of the house sparrow is an indicator of the continuous degradation of the environment and is a warning about detrimental anthropogenic effects on biodiversity. Microwave pollution and concrete jungles are major challenges before the sparrows. Saving the sparrows will also help in saving much of the common biodiversity, which shares the habitat of the sparrows.
His dream is to distribute more than 12,000 nests and save the lives of more than 3,00,000 sparrows. When I asked him about honours and awards, he smiled and replied very smoothly that he is not working for any honour, award or recognition. We should salute such a great Green Soldier who is working for nature, with selflessness. He is truly amazing.
The disappearance of sparrows has been widely reported in India. The sparrow population in Andhra Pradesh alone has dropped by 80%, and in other states like Kerala, Gujarat and Rajasthan, it has dipped by 20%, while the decline in coastal areas was as sharp as 70 to 80%. Urbanisation and industrialisation will make the situation worst for the sparrows.
Mr Singh’s contribution is a complete story for this year’s World Sparrow Day. He is not only helping in conserving sparrows but is also spreading love for sparrows, awareness about their importance in our lives and tips on their conservation. Getting inspiration from him, I hope others will also be encouraged to join this conservation movement to save these birds and biodiversity by doing little things at the grassroots level.
Note: Anyone interested in environment protection and sparrow conservation may contact him on Facebook.