What If A Case is Registered Seeking Justice for the 40 Dead Pelicans? 


Culpable Theriocide. In the International Journal of Crime, we find: Theriocide refers to those diverse human actions that cause the deaths of animals. As with the killing of one human by another (for example, homicide, infanticide and femicide), a theriocide may be socially acceptable or unacceptable, legal or illegal. It may be intentional or unintentional[1]. There the writer Piers Beirne introduced and defined the term for expanding the human criminal justice system to incorporate crime against non-human beings. The present author does not know whether this word has entered the Indian judicial world.

Anyway, if environmentalists in Mumbai go to the court for stopping such horrific acts henceforth, and taking legal action against persons responsible for the death of so many Pelicans by direct and or indirect means, they have many points to tell. It may be argued that why pelicans are still there in Mumbai in the end-may, in spite of this heatwave condition, why they did not fly 5000 kms or more back to their home after the advent of summer. But pelicans and other migratory birds can claim Mumbai and places in Gujarat as their regular seasonal habitat, and their claim on this land and sea is not less than that of humans who inhabit here.

Till now no such information came as to any error from the part of the pilot or co-pilots of the aircraft that they deviated from their designated flight path and hit the flock of pelicans. No pilots would take such risk; they would try to avoid hitting birds as much as they can as bird-hits are considered to be very deadly for aeroplanes. But questions can be raised as to why the pelicans went there.

First, let us see what environmentalist Stalin D from Mumbai said and also wrote to concerned authorities (though it is a rather long quote (from Mid-Day, May 22, 2024) it is very much worthy of reading)[2]:

Environmentalist Stalin D wrote to the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Forest Change (MOEF&CC) and other authorities, highlighting two causes of aircraft bird strikes and proposing solutions.

Thane Creek Sanctuary Issue

>> Construction of tall towers hosting power lines within the sanctuary and Ramsar site

>> Power cables are higher than older Tata Power lines, posing a risk to aircraft landing at Mumbai airport

>> Construction proceeded despite pending permissions and court orders

>> Environmentalist suggests reducing tower height or rerouting lines

Loss of water bodies

>> CIDCO destroyed thousands of hectares of coastal wetlands hosting waterfowl and flamingos

>> Reclamation and construction on wetlands continue despite protests

>> Flamingos and waterfowl now concentrated in five water bodies in Navi Mumbai

>> CIDCO plans to use water bodies for construction, ignoring court orders and Wetland Atlas

>> Allegations of bird harassment by builders to clear water bodies for construction

>> CIDCO built Navi Mumbai airport on 1,400 ha of wetlands, abandoning mangrove park condition


>> Thorough investigation into bird harassment in Thane creek area

>> Demand for Forest department for criminal investigation to expose truth

We see from the above existing bird sanctuaries, thane creek wetlands are becoming dangerous for birds due to high transmission towers and flouting norms, and existing bird sites are threatened, construction companies want to drive away the birds, make people forget that these are bird-sites and use these lands for construction.

Bird Flight Diverters

We can add another reason here: that power concerned companies did not use proper bird diverters for their transmission lines though it was made mandatory[3] (and though those are not costly items). Therefore, the concerned power company (in this case one of Adani’s companies) and some construction bodies are culpable for this bird death.

But can we close our argument saying only this? Professor Nupur Chowdhury in her article of Cell Tower Radiation[4] wrote: “Social elites in urban areas have chosen to approach the Court through PILs only to be rebuffed by a Court which is deeply taken in by the development narrative of the State. Legislature has shown greater responsiveness than Courts which have continued to frustrate such litigation by showing fidelity to risk discourses that privilege conclusive proof of harm as a prerequisite for taking cognizance.” That cell tower radiation and mobile phone radiation have become a threat is almost an open secret. Millions of users polluted by mobile phones and consumerism hardly think of this issue. It is also known to science students that microwave radiation affects the magnetic lines of forces of earth, distorts these lines in the atmosphere, whereas birds, bees etc. species depends of these lines to determine their flight paths. Moreover, bird vision is not like human visions, for example often we see birds clash with window panes, insects cannot detect ‘glass’ in their path, etcetera.

Thus, we have our Navi Mumbai Pelicans, in habitats becoming more and more hazardous, flying space becoming uncanny where they may become rudderless, they may face ‘invisible’ dangers when flying at high speeds, crossing extra-high transmission towers taking uncharted paths that may clash with aeroplanes, getting cornered by ‘developers’ of real estate…

Ms Holly Ningard, Prof, Ohio University, in her doctoral thesis at University of Tennessee wrote of one Martin (not a real name) who once pleaded for birds harmed by human actions[5]. What may happen in this case of Culpable Theriocide! Only silence and customary forgetfulness? A Ohio Forum page quoted Ningard: “So much of what we know about the world, we learn through stories. Stories our parents tell us, stories we read in the news, stories we watch on TV. Stories about crime are some of the most fascinating stories we tell, and so I’m looking into how they shape our views and attitudes regarding crime,” she says[6]. This is also a point to ponder, how our society conditions our views regarding crime, make some crimes look less harmful or not-to-bother-about. We have Valmiki’s story, how he was shocked by death of one krouncha bird and thus Verse was born (मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः। यत्क्रौञ्चमिथुनादेकमवधीः काममोहितम्॥). We have Buddha’s story, how shocked he was to see the killing of a bird (Siddhartha and Devadutta). But we disregard such mass-culling without any reason whatsoever. This is strange.

Sandeep Banerjee is a political commentator

[1] www.crimejusticejournal.com IJCJ&SD 2014 Vol 3 No 2: 49‐66 ISSN 2202–8005

[2] https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/mumbai-officials-alarmed-locals-horrified-by-flamingo-crash-23350447

[3] https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/to-prevent-flamingo-collision-power-companies-asked-to-install-bird-flight-diverters-in-thane-creek-101649613202816.html

[4] “Have a Digital Highway but also have speed limits”: Exploring Public Resistance to Cell Tower Radiation in India, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society

1–15 DOI: 10.1177/02704676221111348, journals.sagepub.com/home/bst

[5] Attorney Stories of Environmental Crime: Harms, Agents, and Ideal Cases, by Holly Ningard University of Tennessee

[6] https://www.ohio-forum.com/2018/11/new-faculty-holly-ningard-focuses-in-criminology-and-law-and-society/

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