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Updated: September 21, 2012 21:45 IST

Call for the sparrows

Anusha Parthasarathy
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For the sparrows at the Mount Lodge. Photo: R. Ragu
The Hindu For the sparrows at the Mount Lodge. Photo: R. Ragu

For its 150th year celebration, Mount Lodge gets ready to bring the birds back

The green cover around the Freemasons’ Hall in Egmore is calming, and as one of its older member exclaims as he steps out of the hall, “unique”. “Where do you find places like these anymore?” he enquires as the sesquicentennial celebrations of Mount Lodge are in full flow. The number of trees in the area has been classified and sparrow boxes have been put up. This is part of their ongoing initiative to give back to the environment.

The sparrow boxes have been arranged in association with the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS). “They have a beautiful campus and when they approached us for their 150th year celebration, we decided that the best way to mark this date was by promoting conservation,” says R. Bhanumathi of MNS. “We’ve got about 20 sparrow boxes here — earthen pots and wooden boxes — that we’ll be putting up around the place and distributing to members.”

Why the birds flew

T. Murugavel of MNS explains the importance of sparrows and why they have suddenly disappeared. “Most people think that sparrows have gone because of the mobile phone towers. But that’s the least of the reasons. They have just gone to places where they can find food,” he says. Since grains now come in sealed plastic packets, people no longer spread them on terraces or spill them on their way back from the neighbourhood store. “Also, houses in the old days had many nooks and corners to build nests. Apartments aren’t too suited for sparrows. But that is not all. Petrol and oil spills kill the insects and worms that sparrows feed their babies with.”

These sparrow boxes are also available to the public too. “We have inaugurated this project so that students and people in this neighbourhood can take these initiatives to their homes,” says Kylas Swaminathan, a freemason. “We will be reviewing it every quarter to see how successful it is.”

There are 118 trees to house these sparrows on the Mount Lodge campus, and over 15 of them are remnants of three species that used to inhabit the tropical forests of old Madras — Mimusops eElengi, which is a part of the chickoo family; Streblus aAsper, a part of the fig family; and Wrightia tTinctoria. “These trees store 25 tonnes of carbon and let out five tonnes of oxygen every year,” says M. Udayakumar, DST inspire fellow, Department of Botany, Pachaiyappa’s College, who classified the trees. “It is rare to find so many trees in such a small area.”

If you’d like to have a sparrow box, call Kylas at 95000-10467.

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