Amidst the hustle and bustle of urbanization and the loss of natural habitats, the tiny sparrows have been quietly disappearing from the skies and surroundings. However, in a small village nestled on the eastern coast of India, the residents have made it their mission to provide a safe haven for these beloved little birds.
As the world celebrated World Sparrow Day, Purunabandh village in Odisha’s Ganjam district stood out as a shining example of conservation efforts, having dedicated over 15 years to providing shelter and protection to these precious creatures.
“It was in 2007 when I mooted the idea of conserving house sparrows I met with laughter and skepticism. Fellow villagers couldn’t understand why they needed to protect a bird that was so common in the area. As I prodded them to count the bird, which feeds on small insects and worms and helps keep our environment clean, many failed to spot even one in and around their homes,” said Rabindra Nath Sahu, who has been single-mindedly working for the conservation of sparrows in Purunabandh village.
Mr. Sahu said, “some villagers realized the gravity of the situation and came forward to conserve the bird.”
Around that time, people had already started to avail Indira Awas Yojna replacing thatched houses and the transformation proved disastrous for sparrows. Their nests disappeared. Some youths led by Mr. Sahu introduced specially designed earthen pots which were hung in houses and within days, sparrows adopted and made nests.
However, some villagers refused to continue with the earthen pot saying it was a bad omen. It did not dishearten bird conservationists. They subsequently came up with nests made of cardboard, dry coconut shells, and paper boxes. It worked. Now, more than 500 artificial nests could be spotted in Purunabandh.
The message of sparrow conservation spread to neighbouring villages. People got to know about the rapidly falling population of sparrows worldwide from different news mediums. Six villages under Palibandh panchayat joined Purunabandh, which is famous for Olive Ridley Turtle sightings. Wildlife enthusiasts coming to Purunabandh for Olive Ridley Turtles also saw the conservation of sparrows. They immediately started to contribute for the cause.
Encouraged by the response, Mr. Sahu and his team started exploring the scope of sparrow conservation in neighbouring areas such as Gopalpur and Chhatrapur in the Ganjam district. Many people accepted the appeal and started providing artificial nests for sparrows. “Now, we have been able to reach out to bird lovers in 17 districts of Odisha,” he said.