Last Saturday was the World Migratory Bird Day, so I want to use it as an excuse to talk about one of our city bird-guests, now in dire straits.
As citizens of Ahmedabad, we are lucky to be stationed on Central Asian Flyway used by more than 250 migratory birds species, and with a Ramsar site like Nalsarovar close by, most citizens know that we are hosts to videshi mehman (foreign guests) not only in from of NRGs but also flamingos, pelicans and a lot more.
Though flamingo is undoubtedly the mascot of migratory birds in Gujarat, my own favourite is a much smaller bird that I don’t need to go out into wilderness to find, instead it brings amazing nature to our doorsteps.
Rosy pastors, locally known as vaiya is small myna-like bird that can be seen flying in huge flocks over Ahmedabad. Its mass aerial acrobatics, also known as murmuring is unquestionably the grandest natural spectacle on offer for the citizens of Ahmedabad.
While large rosy pastor flocks can be seen flying over IIMA and Gujarat University campuses, the grandest show is held on the riverfront near NID, where it also roosts for the night.
Even though the birds produce a deafening din when they are settling down for the night and soil the ground with their nightly discharge too, for the sensitive designer community of NID, they have a special place in the lore of the campus.
Unfortunately, a few days back I received a video of a horror show accompanied by sickening evidence of the terror that the night had brought to the rosy pastor flock resting at NID.
The video depicted a firework display on riverfront sending the birds into blind panic, and it was accompanied by tragic images of carnage with dead birds scattered on the ground next morning.
As I looked at the source of fiery celebrations, I realised that the land adjacent to NID appears to be available for holding public functions. As no Indian function is complete without (if not fireworks) loud speakers (pun intended), it is clear that, if we don’t act soon, the days of our feathered visitors are now numbered.
My own learning from the sad demise of rosy pastors to human activity is that our urban planners fail to recognise nature as a client. So you have such a wonderful natural phenomenon going unrecognised in city planning and land is earmarked for nosiest possible use.
I see nature-agnosia common to urban planners as their academic curriculum is not oriented to look at a city as an ecology. As urban planners of Ahmedabad have already disregarded mosquito as a force majeure, we are paying a price of it by rapidly turning into Pathogenabad aiding virolution.
Even if my long term hope that I can go and talk biology to a class of urban planners in the apex urban planning schools of the city is not yet materialised (even after my multiple attempts), at this point, I have one small wish.
As we claim to be a “heritage” city, I plead the city administration to recognise the mesmerising dance of rosy pastors as a phenomenon worth preserving.
Rosy pastors of NID must have been singing the song of Sabarmati well before even the city was founded. As a river on the edge of a desert, Sabarmati must have been home to a vibrant ecology (now lost to RCC walls), so rosy pastor song is a remnant of a past when evenings were not about shimmering city-lights and honking traffic, but of white noise lullaby of bird songs.
I plead to the urban planners of the city to save the last song of Sabarmati before it is drowned by blaring loudspeakers and bursting fire crackers.