While activism around the conservation of birds is common, a group of people in Pandalam of Pathanamthitta district are protesting the problems they cause — namely, the hundreds of birds that nest on three trees near a market.
Residents of the area are fed up with the scores of little cormorant birds (neerkakkas) that have made their homes in these trees, resulting in bird droppings, eggs falling from trees and birds being killed by vehicles. The birds have also stunk up the area, so much so that residents have a hard time breathing amidst the stench. And vehicles are unable to park near the market without being covered in bird faeces.
Earlier, the birds were migratory and used to come to the trees once in six months. But in the last two years, they have started living in the trees permanently and feeding on market waste.
On Friday, Panchayat ward member Raghu Perumbulickal and several other locals, including the traders, and auto rickshaw drivers conducted a day-long protest under the trees.
"There is a court order to cut those trees as they are so close to the road and may lead to dangerous circumstances. However, we are not asking to cut them, but we need a solution. People are hesitant to come to market. Shops will have to shut down if this continues," Raghu told TNM.
He added that the area 100 meters around the trees — two mango trees and a blackboard tree — is covered with bird droppings and nobody can walk through the area. He noted that a net or a tarpaulin sheet may solve the issue, "If there is no solution, the trees will have to be cut at the time when birds are not there," he added.
Raghu stated that authorities need to take action to rid the residents of their troubles.
Dr Hema Rajesh, who has a dental clinic near these trees, also says that the situation cannot continue. "The Panchayat doesn’t take any effort to clean the area. Even though we are ready to pay, nobody has agreed to clean the area as they would be covered in poop. I get a very low number of patients because they can't walk or park in the area," she said.
Ironically, it was Hema's great-grandmother who planted those trees in the area that had earlier been owned by her family. So while she doesn’t want to cut the trees down, she stated that a solution is necessary. "Residents in the area cannot live here as the foul smell increases in the morning and night. These trees are also very old. Many of its branches have dried. Those branches should be removed and there should be some measures to get rid of the birds," she said.
However, some nature lovers have opposed calls to cut down the trees due to their habitat for the birds and the fact that the trees are over a century old.