world environment day


The English-speaking world calls me a sparrow. The Hindi speakers here in the city, call me a gauraiya. And some who can’t master the colonial accent call me an ‘eesparrow’. Whatever my name is, I don’t want you to care about it. All I want you to care about is…my life.

I and my friends have been living in Delhi since four generations. It is an extreme world. The summers are extremely hot. The people are extremely impatient. And the landscape is extremely changing. My mother says that earlier, the human nest-builders called architects made more ‘sparrow friendly’ houses in the city.

My family also used to own good property near window sills. But then the temperature rose with this thing called global warming, and all window sills began to be covered with these white boxes called air-conditioners.

Now these ACs are funny inventions. They are meant for cooling rooms of human beings. So, I too went towards the outer side of the AC hoping to get some cold air in these hot days. Ah! Little did I know the AC releases hot air from the outside! I nearly burnt myself that day.

We are much like the humans who are of the ‘displaced labour’ species.  We get no permanent nests and no permanent rest.

Ornithologists say that we, the sparrows, act as ecological indicators and reducing numbers show an imbalance in the ecology of Delhi. I don’t like these ornithology chaps. They are these experts who keep on staring at us without consent. These creeps even have a term for it: bird watching.

But I agree with them, the environment here is really messed up. And it might get more messed up for our lives if people are selfish enough to care about themselves. Along with AC, another invention killing my brothers and sisters is the mobile phone.

You see I used to live on the roof of this boy. He was nice to me, used to feed me every day. But my lungs got damaged because every darned day, he used to sit on the terrace, talking on the phone to his girlfriend. Then one day, she had dumped him. This sounded like good news but as ill my fate was, he began to spend even more time on the phone, calling his friends for consolation.

And I don’t know who will give me consolation.  Sigh.

I live on the outskirts now as they are still sparrow friendly. If this settlement also changes its environment, then I don’t know where I’ll fly off to. I can’t fly all my life. I want to settle down. After all, I’m just a house sparrow.


Shaurya Singh Thapa

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Hey there! How are you? I am plastic. Not plastic like your college friends; I’m the real deal. My breed is straw, and my colour is white, but out here in the plastic world, we don’t judge each other in terms of colour or breed. Who does anyway?

I was last used at PAM, this eating joint at Hindu College. PAM stands for Pizzas and More, but the funny thing is there are no pizzas here. I feel like I should petition to change PAM’s full form to ‘Plastics and More’!

So, I was a fresh new kid ready to be dipped in a nice cup of not-so-nice cold coffee. But then members of this college society told the owner, a grumpy white-haired uncle, that he should stop using plastic straws in his shop. They called me and my plastic family murderers and said that he should play his part in saving the environment by banning us. To this, PAM uncle did what he’s best at: he told the students to bugger off.

I felt offended that those students called me a killer but as I realised later, that’s the sad truth. I could have said this is my autobiography but this is more like a confessional. You see no one is a natural born killer. Killers are made, rather than born. I too was made a killer by my creators, human beings.

You see I look good when you are French kissing the life out of me, sipping on your drink. But then, you dispose me off. And when I am disposed, I wish for a nice, calm death. The purpose of my life has been served. However, it seems that I’m borderline immortal. The problem with being immortal is that you can get extremely…bored.

Now I lay in this pile of garbage to rot but I won’t even rot; the organic things have it easy, I tell you. No one would pick me up and reuse me. And just to add to my concerns, I have unintentionally started destroying and killing things.

This bird was scrounging for some food in the garbage and the dumbo swallowed me down too. The feel inside his body was gross but what felt grosser was when it vomited me out. The poor creature couldn’t ingest me. I told you right, I just can’t die!

The bird kept on choking for some time and to my horror, it just stopped breathing in a few minutes. That was when I became a killer. I imagine how so many members of my family might have become such unintentional murderers. Those ‘woke’ students were right.

I have blown with the wind now to some littered road in Delhi (there are many in the city), waiting for my death. But instead, all I do is just stay in my non-biodegradable state killing Mother Nature slowly (I heard this science kid talk about me like that once; he also said that some of the straws kill marine creatures).

I wish that in the next life, I’m not reborn as a plastic straw. Maybe in the future, humans stop using plastic straws altogether so we’ll never be created and we’ll never be killers. Maybe…


Shaurya Singh Thapa

[email protected]

If the multi-spheres of pollution are humanity’s most significant survival battle today, then the planting of trees is claimed to be the biggest contributor in cleaning the air which serves as the life valve of every species. Daily reports allude to the deteriorating air, aquatic, and land quality owing to a multitude of reasons. Luckily, this World Environment Day, new research about countering air pollution has been discovered.

A team of researchers from the University of Delhi has identified five trees which might be instrumental in tackling the plight of the degraded quality of air. Plants are known to act as air purifiers by sucking up and trapping harmful gases and particulate matter. The team comprises of 16 members – three assistant professors and 13 students – who collected data on air pollution and the dominant tree colonies from five areas – Mandir Marg, Civil Lines, Anand Vihar, RK Puram, and Punjabi Bagh – over a period of a year from September 2015 to September 2016.

According to their research, certain trees with inherent qualities contribute in cleaning the city’s air more than others. Dr. Vijay Thakur, Assistant Professor of Botany at Shivaji College, comments, “But not all plants have the same ability to bring down pollution and clean the air. Our research shows that there are some trees such as peepal, saptaparni, and jamun which help to clean the city’s air more than others.”

“We compared the levels of five pollutants — PM2.5, PM10, NOx, SOx, and ozone — in these areas as measured by the monitoring stations and then studied the dominant tree colonies,” he added, when speaking to a popular national daily. The parameters considered for the study included the tree’s height, canopy size, leaf size, shape and orientation of leaves, leaf characteristics, dust accumulation, and other factors that were studied in the laboratories.

The results found that areas such as Mandir Marg and RK Puram have lower pollution levels as compared to Anand Vihar and Civil Lines, which are highly polluted areas. These findings conformed to their hypothesis wherein areas which were dominated by trees such as peepal, jamun, devdar, champa, and saptaparni registered lower levels of pollution. Civil Lines, which has trees such as Vilayti Kikar, on the other hand, observed high pollution levels.

“We found that these five trees were able to trap more pollutants, including PM2.5 and PM10, than others. Their leaf structures were such that they helped to trap more dust and other pollutants,” said Dr. Kumar.

Concretisation, infrastructural toll, falling groundwater, termites, bugs, and ageing continue to be the biggest threats to the health of trees occupying the Delhi region. According to statistics, 15,000 trees were felled in Delhi in the last three years for development projects, and there is currently 299.77 sq. kms. of green cover in the national capital.

The project, in addition to testing the ability of a tree to absorb pollution, also studied the presence of birds as bio-indicators of a healthy tree. “It was found that some trees, such as the peepal, not just helped to bring down pollution levels but also supported a wide range of bird species. The grey hornbill and brown-headed barbet were found in large numbers in areas which were dominated by trees such as peepal,” said Dr. Virat Jolli, Assistant Professor of Zoology at Shivaji College.

The project titled “Amelioration of Air Quality in Urban Ecosystem of Delhi – Role of Avenue Trees” was mentored by the ecologist and emeritus professor of Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems, CR Babu. Funded by the University of Delhi, the findings will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal.


Feature Image Credits: TheHealthSite

Saumya Kalia
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5 June 2017 marks the 43rd World Environment Day (WED). Yes, that day when everyone advocates green energy, abhors plastic, and plants trees. First held in 1974, nothing (except the themes) has changed in terms of how this day is celebrated. More or less throughout the years, the same things have been repeated. Yet each year the records of “highest temperature” are being broken and glaciers keep on melting.  I don’t know if it is worth saying what’s been said before, but I do know that there is no other way round it.

As writer Arundhati Roy writes in The End Of Imagination, “There can be nothing more humiliating for a writer of fiction to have to do than restate a case that has, over the years, already been made by other people in other parts of the world, and made passionately, eloquently and knowledgeably. I am prepared to humiliate myself abjectly, because, in the circumstances, silence would be indefensible. So those of you who are willing: let’s pick our parts, put on these discarded costumes and speak our second-hand lines in this sad second-hand play. But let’s not forget that the stakes we’re playing for are huge and our fatigue and our shame could mean the end of us.”

The theme for 2017 is ‘Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator’. The host nation this year is Canada. As part of the occasion, Canada has offered free passes for its national parks throughout 2017. In an age when the world is subjected to the crass ignorance of Trump, Canada under Justin Trudeau seems like a reassuring presence. But the rosy words and promises are rendered meaningless if you keep siphoning more and more carbon for people to burn and sadly that’s exactly what Canada is planning to do after they discovered 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground at Alberta’s tar sands in northeastern Alberta. (Yes, Trudeau is indeed charming, and also deceiving.)

These days when the world is either freezing or melting, and with growing acceptance of conspiracy theories that claim that climate change is a hoax, the situation does look bleak, but there is hope. Evidence includes Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement being met with Michael Bloomberg’s offer of up to $15 million to implement the agreement.


In our own rapidly industrialising country where the cost of development is often the environment, Kerala has planted one crore saplings today. It is important that we do our part by implementing things that we were taught since a young age. It’s important that we  limit driving, conserve energy, reduce the use of packaging material and use environmentally safe products, and educate ourselves, so as to see through the pretense of policies. We can’t really afford any lethargy or indifference because as Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, “The Earth will survive climate change… we won’t.”


Feature Image Credits: Egeturk

Niharika Dabral
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