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Boon or bane?

Feeding of pigeons has created such a health hazard in a South Delhi locality that a resident has moved out of the area

Most people who pass the trijunction of the CR Park, Nehru Enclave and Greater Kailash Enclave on Outer Ring Road see hundreds of pigeons flocking to the spot. They come for the grains scattered by bird-lovers. You can also see green leaves of vegetables and other food items littered on the road, being eaten by stray dogs and cows.

It looks a complete mess in one of the busiest roads and locality of Delhi. Although the trijunction has railings from all the three sides and street lights put up by the authorities, the issue of feeding the pigeons remains as their droppings and feathers can cause various infections and diseases. “More than 400 pigeons flock here every day and people from different strata and locations come to feed them,” says a guard posted outside Nehru Apartments.

Who would have thought that feeding of pigeons is a menace? Ask a former resident of Greater Kailash Part- 1, journalist Jaya Ray, who decided to relocate as she was afraid with the numerous diseases which are caused due to the droppings and other bacteria of pigeons. “I have been living in the Greater Kailash area for a long time but eventually had to vacate my flat as I didn’t want my son to suffer from any of those infections. The pigeon population has been growing lately,” says Jaya.

Other residents are considering moving out since the situation started to deteriorate.  Ray told Patriot, “Pigeon’s poop and the environment where the pigeons feed can cause very bad lung infection. There have been people who have suffered from this issue in the CR Park and surrounding areas. So, it is extremely hazardous for human health.”

Sanjay Rana, president of the Resident Welfare Association of Greater Kailash Part-2, says, “It’s very difficult to stop individuals from throwing grains and food items. People have to become conscious that they will not throw food items and and other litter. And who can tell whether they are gaining anything from it as somewhere it is connected to faith.”

Additionally, says Rana, “Vendors have started selling grains in the particular area where pigeons flock, which promotes the activity; it should be completely banned. It is a known fact that pigeons cause several diseases but in spite of that the feeding activity continues which requires every individual to introspect.”

As per a report in the Bangalore Mirror, “According to veterinary microbiologist Dr R Sharada from Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries University (KVAFSU), birds are uricotelic, they excrete nitrogenous waste from bloodstream as uric acid instead of urea and ammonia. Birds do not have a urinary bladder and uric acid is excreted along with faeces. Pigeon excreta favours the growth of fungi and faecal ammonia could cause irritation and respiratory disorders. One must be careful not to step on droppings.”

As per the study, the various maladies from pigeon droppings include, Bacterial: E.Coli, Salmonella, listeriosis, Campylobacteriosis, Psittacosis, Avian tuberculosis. Fungal: Histoplasmosis, Cryptococcosis and Candidiasis. Viral: Bird flu, Newcastle disease. Parasitic/Protozoal: Toxoplasmosis Trichomoniasis.

But the “pigeon menace” theory doesn’t go down well with everyone around CR Park. The owner of a teastall right in front of the pigeon triangle had some interesting anecdotes to offer. Ramesh (name changed) told Patriot that he has been in the area for the last 28 years and pigeons started coming to this place 10- 12 years ago. While he nurtured them with some food items earlier, later it became a trend.

“Earlier only two pigeons could be seen. As years passed, other people started feeding them and in a couple of years thousands of pigeons started coming, but we never felt any problem due to it,” he says while making bread-omelette. When asked about the health hazard due to droppings and feathers, he claims that, on the contrary, “Pigeons can cure tuberculosis, asthma and other diseases.”

He insists, “These pigeons are very helpful and useful in the sense that they are capable of curing harmful diseases and contributing a lot to the environment.”

A customer at the teastall says, “It’s all a matter of faith. People feed birds due to their beliefs,” adding, “In the past few days, due to development, the pigeons visiting this triangle has plunged and now sin is being committed.”

Jaya Ray, who left the colony as pigeons used to nest on her air-conditioner, criticised the faith angle, saying, “Such blind faith should not be entertained or encouraged. A person’s life won’t change if he/she keeps on feeding the pigeons. It happens through our work and action. Such blind faith should be attacked and it can come through education but the strange fact is even educated people are doing this.”

Rajan Mishra, Team Associate, Travel Corporation of India who keeps visiting the trijunction area of the Greater Kailash and CR Park says, “More than feeding the pigeons, it has become a business these days. Even foreign tourists are critical of this activity and complain of the pollution it creates in every manner. Pigeons mostly flock together and easily accessible food is everyone’s demand, so they make such spot their home, reproduce and also attract other pigeons.”

Offering a possible solution, Ray suggests, “Authorities need to act upon the menace created and the feeding of grains and other food items should be barred completely. To monitor such activity, CCTVs need to be installed alongside barbed wires and tall iron railings.” Also, a heavy fine should be imposed on people flouting the rules.