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India must eliminate toxins from the system

Indian Vultures were the focus of this column last week. This week, it’s Canadian Ravens. Not that there’s a special focus on birds here, but both are impacted by chemicals and citizens’ science in different ways.

An avid birder in the Ottawa region mentioned to me how rare ravens were in the area till a decade ago. Now, they are plentiful.

As I explored this information, birders who have been around since the 1970s shared a nugget.

The ravens had increased, no doubt. But they were reclaiming their former territory. Records showed they were plentiful in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the 1940s, with urbanization, wolf poisoning became common, killing off ravens who fed on the carcasses.

As that practice stopped and food abounded, the ravens returned. It took almost 50 years. The Bald Eagle followed a comparable trajectory.

Back home, we have lost vultures in several parts of India, thanks to Diclofenac. Indian birders record fewer species and fewer numbers compared to even the 1980s.

The painkiller has been banned for veterinary use, but not as a human medication. As a result, it is not out of our intricately interconnected ecosystem. While we have good breeding centres in India, this doesn’t compensate for healthy breeding populations in the wild.

However, India is not the only country faced with this challenge. We must learn from the experience of others and eliminate several toxins from our system entirely.

India has such rich biodiversity treasures, and we have much to gain from this approach.

(Bharati Chaturvedi is the founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)


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