The National Green Tribunal has very recently given orders to the chief wildlife warden of Punjab and other related authorities to investigate the sudden mass death of about 400 parrots in Faridkot town of Punjab and take appropriate remedial action.
However this mass death of parrots is not a one-time event. Bird-lovers and lawyers associated with them in Faridkot have been drawing attention to such phenomenon for a few years. What their continuous vigil has revealed is that these deaths are reported almost entirely from or near jamun trees and other fruit trees and generally peak before the fruit plucking time. Many of these trees are auctioned to contractors who spray chemicals on trees. Sometimes bird deaths have been seen very shortly after this. Hundreds of birds in large numbers have been dying every year.
These include a lot of parrots but in addition also a significant number of other birds including pigeons, sparrows etc.
When bird-lovers draw the attention of the administration to these, these are generally attributed to sandstorms or related factors and hence no action is taken. One hopes that with court orders this time proper investigation will certainly be made in Faridkot.
What about the wider reality? After all such conditions of fruit trees being given to contractors and spraying by them exists in so many parts of the country. In Faridkot because of the continuing vigilance maintained by bird-lovers and the help extended to them by some lawyers, the death of birds has been reported. In other parts of country this may not be even noticed and dead bodies of small birds may be just disposed off casually. Hence it is very important that this investigation must not be confined to just a small town like Faridkot but instead must be taken up in a much larger context.
Already there have been disturbing reports from other parts of the country. In Kashmir the use of pesticides in apple orchards is reported to have caused a big reduction in bees , wasps and other pollinators as well. Now while a death of a large number of birds at least gets noticed, the perishing of a large number of bees and other pollinating insects may not be even noticed. However this will certainly lead to a big loss of pollination. It is well-known that pollination is very important for the proper growth of apple orchards.
Use of pesticides has increased after the promotion of monocultures and their higher susceptibility to pests and diseases ( as opposed to healthy growth of diverse varieties and plants).Indiscriminate use of pesticides in orchards has been causing many other problems including adversely affecting the safety and nutrition of fruits and fodder obtained from orchards. Similar problems exist in other orchard areas. From Himachal there have been reports of some unauthorized sprays being used. In some areas chemicals are used just to improve the look of fruits.
Similarly from orange orchards of Nagpur and neighboring areas there have been reports of unauthorized chemicals being used which are likely to be more harmful and apart from harming birds and bees these are likely to be harmful also to human beings engaged in spraying them, particularly when essential precautions are being ignored.
Due to unethical marketing practices and business interests, harmful chemical sprays are being practiced and used on a large scale on a very large number of trees where such sprays are not really required and in fact can be very harmful. It is this wider reality that needs to be confronted and if national level remedial action is taken then we will be able to save countless birds and bees , apart from preventing other avoidable harm to environment, health and food safety.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author, is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Protect Earth Now.