Chennai

Why can’t we resume ‘tweetups’ at Elliot’s Beach?

(Left) Sadhana Rajkumar with the discarded sparrow enclosure at Elliot’s beach. hotos: Prince Frederick

(Left) Sadhana Rajkumar with the discarded sparrow enclosure at Elliot’s beach. hotos: Prince Frederick   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

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The ball is in the Corporation’s court, says sparrow conservationist Sadhana Rajkumar

The Corporation garden at Elliot’s Beach looks sylvan, well-tended and well-utilised. For Sadhana Rajkumar though, the picture is marred by the memory of “what-once-was”. This garden would host “offline tweetups”. Not anymore.

“I am missing my friends,” says Sadhana ruefully as she leads me down the promenade to a section of the garden where the tweetups would happen every morning.

The section of the Corporation garden at Elliot's beach where the sparrow garden once stood. Photo: Prince Frederick

The section of the Corporation garden at Elliot's beach where the sparrow garden once stood. Photo: Prince Frederick   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

It was a garden within the garden, and it provided sparrows with their own private space.

“It was a steel enclosure that was fitted with birdbaths, feeders and swings. The sparrows took to it. During my morning walk, I would see around 10 sparrows making use of the facility. Wires were tied across the top of the open-top enclosure to prevent crows from slipping in and playing spoilsport,” says Sadhana of what was popularly known as “the sparrow garden”.

Sadhana points out that she managed to establish it in 2013, with the support of a few people who shared her interest in sparrow conservation. “During summer, the water kept at the facility would be extremely valuable to sparrows,” adds Sadhana.

Following this backgrounder, she guides me to a patch close to the garden that is overrun with discarded material. The prominent discard is the sparrow enclosure that is rusty to the point of resembling the reddish-brown shades one finds on the back of a male house sparrow.

When the Corporation sketched beautification plans for the garden, the enclosure did not quite fit into the picture.

“This was around two years ago,” says Sadhana.

From the accounts of a few regulars at the beach, after the sparrow enclosure fell into disuse, the sparrows struck this patch off their pit-stops map.

Conservation issue

In conservation, there is the concept of local extinction which suggests that though a species may be far from threatened, it has to be considered “extinct” from a local perspective, if it disappears from a place. Even when this disappearance involves only a small patch, local extinction can have a domino effect and lead to wider disappearance of the species.

Viewed against this conservation principle, reviving the steel sparrow garden seems like a necessity.

Sadhana understands that the sparrow enclosure can’t be reintroduced at the garden, and wants the Corporation to let her install it in another part of Elliot’s beach. “Besant Nagar has many places known for attracting sparrows, and such an initiative will not go in vain,” says Sadhana.

While underlining the fact that the garden has profuse greenery and there is little space inside for anything other than plants and trees, a Corporation official however concedes that accommodating the enclosure in some other part of Elliots beach should not be a problem.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:09:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-sparrow-project/article29541763.ece

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