Birds have been an integral part of creation. There are over 10,000 species of birds across the world. Unfortunately today, because of lack of wisdom of human beings more than 500 species of birds have been adversely affected. A lot of the species have gone extinct over the past century. Against this backdrop, a group of youths hailing from Khalisha Belpukur village under Saidpur upazila in Nilphamari district have launched a noble initiative to save mother earth by befriending birds.
With the slogan “Let’s Become Friends of Birds and Save the Beautiful Earth”, they launched a voluntary organisation named ‘Setu Bandhan’ one year ago. The meaning of ‘Setu Bandhan’ is a bridge between birds and human beings. Their aim was to provide a nurturing and healthy environment to as many birds as possible. Within a year, their endeavour attracted widespread community support. In recognition of their noble endeavour, ‘Setu Bandhan’ won the country’s prestigious Bird Protection Award-2016.
The pioneer of the noble initiative, Alamgir Hossain, also a college student, launched Setu Bandhan with 10 volunteers only. Ultimately, the number rose to 110. While narrating his experience, the convener of the rural voluntary organisation, said that he noticed at his garden that birds look for trees to make nests. But they could not find suitable nesting sites as greedy people cut down older trees to make a quick buck. “People now plant foreign varieties of trees to replace older trees. Usually, foreign trees grow up with no branch or bushy top. In these trees birds seldom make nests,” he informed. “In the meantime, many bird spices have disappeared although birds are vital for the ecosystem. They also play an important role in agriculture by eating harmful insects,” he said.
Setu Bondhon founding members Rashedul, Sirajul and Rifat also echoed the same urge. This was the reason behind founding Setu Bandhan, Alamgir said. Last year, Setu Bandhan attached 600 pitchers to the branches of trees as potential nesting sites for birds, said Rafiqul, a dedicated member. All the members donate money from their own pockets. Alamgir contributed a major share of it. Ultimately, starling (Shalikh), magpie robin (Doel), owls and doves started gathering at the village in large number. They have chosen to settle in the terracotta nests to raise their families.
Till now, the youths attached around 2,000 more pitchers to the tree branches within a year. They also expanded their activities to three adjacent villages. It helped them earn popularity. “At my own expense, I have fixed 20 pitchers on the trees,” said Abdul Gofur, 55, a farmer by profession, at Belpukur. “In the meantime, pest attacks on my crops decreased significantly without application of pesticide,” he mentioned. “Students of Khalisha High School also showed interest to know about bird species,” informed headmaster Fazlar Rahman. “The students are keen to learn about the characteristics and habitat of birds. They ask a lot of questions to their teachers in this regard.”
In a bid to raise awareness among people, Setu Bondhon members organised 70 courtyard meetings and distributed leaflets and hung signboards in their localities. In recognition of their achievement, the Ministry of Forest and Environment awarded ‘Setu Bandhan’ with Bird Protection Award. The award was distributed in mid-November at a formal ceremony at Rajshahi Zila Shilpakala Academy.
During award distribution ceremony, chief forest conservator Yunus Ali highly lauded Nilphamari youths for their extra-ordinary achievements. In his speech, he termed the youths as young heroes of Nilphamari.
The chairman of Kashiram Belpukur Union Parishad, Jewel Ahmed, said earlier the villagers thought the efforts of the youths would go in vain. But in reality, they realised the importance of birds in human life. This is why they now take care of the pitchers and birds.
To have a firsthand experience of the youths, officials of Alorpoth Samaj Unnayan Sangstha, upazila assistant agriculture officer, journalists and many others visited the villages where Setu Bandhan is working hard to change the scenario. The head of the department of zoology of Nilphamari Government College, Prof Shahebul Alam, said both government and non-government organisations should come forward to provide necessary logistic support to these youths. Upazila agriculture officer Homayara Mondol said the youths’ efforts would play a significant role in protecting environment as well as in increasing food production. The youths need patronisation, he concluded.
(The writer is a Senior Sub-Editor at daily sun. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)