Fly high, but save the avian population

According to a government notice, nearly 50 lakh kms of string are used to fly kites during the festival

The adult kite, a bird of prey, lay anaesthetised on the operating table, breathing heavily, its

amputated left wing lying in a red bucket serving as a waste-basket on the floor nearby, proof it would never fly again.

Sherwin Everett, a student who works at the Jivdaya Charitable Trust at the Ahmedabad Panjrapole Campus, where the kite was being treated by veterinarians, said pigeons and kites are usually the worst affected by manja (plastic and glass-laced kite-strings) that stripe the skies during the annual Uttarayan, two-day kite flying festival, although all sorts of birds, including migratory ones, also fall prey.

The situation has gotten so out of hand in spite of efforts by animal lovers and government agencies alike that in the last week of December, H K Dash, the principal secretary of the Environment and Forests Department, issued a notice to all municipal commissioners and district collectors in the state to ban the use of such threads and confiscate it from vendors selling them.

An estimated 50 lakh kms of kite-strings are used to fly kites during the festival, the notice says, and that the manja, which makes up a considerable portion, not only injures, sometimes fatally, birds and people, but remain long after to choke drains, suffocate animals who end up ingesting them and lead to short-circuits of electric lines and substations since the strings act as conductors.

Even the 108 ambulance service has issued advisories ahead of the festival, saying emergencies handled by it increase by more than 40 per cent during the main festival days.

However, for animal lovers injuries and deaths caused to the avian population is the starkest feature of the festival.

According to details provided by Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Jagdish Prasad, the number of injured or dead birds during last year's two-day festival topped 1,600. The figure has soared above the 1,500 mark for the last three years.

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