Lower Dir is one of the worst districts badly affected by climate change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the past few years, sparrows have been fading in bulk. The Disappearance of sparrows in Lower Dir is a manifestation of climate change.
Kifayat Ullah is from Haji Abad the village in Lower Dir, talking to Friday Times he said that he had witnessed the bulk amount of sparrows when he was a child; he added that in the past few years sparrows have been disappearing slowly and gradually. Kifayat said that when he was a child he used to hunt sparrows, however in the present we don’t see such activity because the number of sparrows has decreased on a large scale. He also said that we would listen to the twittering of sparrows in the past, although now it is very rare to listen to sparrows’ sounds.
According to the WWF report, sparrows in Pakistan are not on the Red List because nobody has so far attempted to actually count the number of these birds existing at present. Sparrows are on the UK’s IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, according to a report in The Guardian. There are 247m million fewer house sparrows in Europe than there were in 1980.
According to Lower Dir wildlife, the cause for this disappearance is unsustainable population expansion and large-scale utilization of nature. Talking to Friday Times, Lower Dir wildlife department SDFO Ijaz said, construction activities in the region resulting climate change and an unprecedented spike in temperature, which is directly affecting their reproduction cycle. He said that the Wildlife department did not take specific measures to protect sparrows however they are protecting wildlife under the KP wildlife act 2015 where various offenses regarding wildlife are penalized. He added that various wildlife species are declared protected and cannot be hunted unless a special permit is issued by the department.
The professor of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan and Zoologist Dr. Anwar Hussain said while talking to Friday Times that sparrows play a vital role in the ecosystem. He added that Sparrows eat seeds and fruits. He was of the view that while eating seeds, sparrows play a role in the shape of spreading seeds away from the parent trees. He further explained that when seeds grow near the parent plants, the scarcity of nutrients would be a big threat to them. He added that when seeds spread away it is likely to grow.
Dr. Anwar said that sparrows also keep a check on the population of insects; as they eat insects such as Gross Hopper, snails, etc. He said that Sparrows do not let the insect population grow beyond a certain limit. He added that sparrows also play a role in the food chain, they serve food to predators such as sparrowhawks and eagles. Even snakes feed on sparrows. Dr. Anwar further explained that newly born sparrows eat only insects for fifteen days which is a natural way to control the birth of insects and to protect crops from insects.
Talking about the possible causes of the disappearance of sparrows, Dr. Anwar said that urbanization and cutting trees are the main causes of the disappearance of sparrows. He added that by cutting indigenous trees the nesting area is disturbed. He said that when new trees are introduced to which sparrows are not used to; sparrows don’t make nests there and they disappear. He also said that by spraying pesticides the food chain is disturbed which results in the disturbance in the reproduction cycle of sparrows. Furthermore, he said that temperature rise is also one of the main causes. Dr. Anwar pointed out that the emission of electromagnetic rays from electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops is one of the causes of the disappearance of sparrows. Environmental Journalist Asif Momand told Friday Times that the structure of housing is problematic for sparrows to survive; concrete emits heat at night time which is hard for sparrows to make nests in houses. In this way, house sparrows vanished from the sky.
Increasing concrete structures and excessive amounts of solid waste generated by the city, according to news reports, have resulted in rapid pollution and an increase in the population of kites and crows that prey on and destroy sparrows and swift eggs and nests. These birds have been put in peril as a result of this.
Environmental journalist Asif Momand said that the climate crisis is a political issue, and that policy change can bring change. He added that humans should rethink their policies regarding agriculture and infrastructure in the ecosystem. He maintained that human activities have affected the ecosystem very badly.
Asif added that disappearing birds is an indicator that human policies lack equilibrium. He added that human behavior towards the environment should be friendly. Humans have to know about the Sustainable Development Goals which state that humans will have to know about the species living with them. Asif said that one possible way to bring sparrows back is to be aware of people not destroying their habitats. He added that preserving indigenous species could also be helpful.
Impact of not having sparrows
According to a news report, China launched a campaign to kill sparrows also known as “Smash Sparrow”, this campaign launched in the year 1958 by Mao Zedong is the worst ecological disaster known to mankind. Mao felt that sparrows ate too much grain and China could do without such pests. Thus, he decreed that all sparrows be killed.
News stories further described that China discovered within a year that sparrows ate not just grain but also pests, such as locusts. Exponential growth in insect infestations, especially locust attacks, has wreaked havoc on Chinese agriculture. There were no more sparrows to eat them.
What do other governments do?
According to a news report In 2012, the then Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, declared the house sparrow the state bird of Delhi. Two years prior to that, the Indian Postal Department had released a stamp of the house sparrow along with the rock pigeon.