During the incident on Monday night. (Express Photo)
In what is being dubbed an “inhumane act”, the authorities of Haldia dock complex brought in a fire engine and sprayed jets of water at trees in a locality to drive away birds and destroy their nests and eggs. While the move was criticised by the wildlife department and animal rights activists, dock officials said they acted after some residents complained of “noise” and “filth”.
The incident took place Monday night in the industrial township of Haldia (125 km from Kolkata), near St Xaviers’ School. The area where the incident occurred is under the Haldia dock complex, managed by the Kolkata Port Trust. Following the incident, state forest department officials visited the area on Wednesday and warned residents to not repeat such actions.
“Common species of birds have been nesting in the trees near the housing complex and indeed the birds were creating a problem… We have issued a warning and such acts should not be repeated. They should have consulted us first,” said Swagata Das, Divisional Forest Officer, East Midnapore. Haldia Port authorities, however, stated that the residents are the ones who are suffering.
“Nothing has happened to the birds. They are still there on those trees… It is the residents who are suffering. They will continue to suffer as no one comes forward to… find a solution,” Amal Dutta, general manager (management and services), Haldia Dock Complex told The Indian Express via SMS. “I am not aware of the incident. But I will look into it,” said Sanjay Mukherjee, public relations officer of Kolkata Port Trust.
According to locals, the stretch near Haldia Port housing quarters in cluster IV was home to cranes, storks, little egrets and other species. Acting on complaints from some residents, Haldia Port authorities sprayed water on around 20 trees, driving away the birds. Local residents said the entire episode lasted for about four hours.
“This is illegal and inhuman. This is the time when birds like storks, herons and egrets make their nests. This is the time when they eat vigorously and have a good appetite. Instead of protecting them, how can someone use water jets on them at night? World over, such birds are protected by the law. I will bring it to the notice of the wildlife board,” said Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, secretary of the Nature Environment and Wildlife Society and a member of the state wildlife board.
Meanwhile, a section of residents of Haldia town have planned protest rallies against the incident. “One cannot imagine such inhuman acts against birds… All this because of so-called bird poop and noise disturbing the residents of the officers’ quarters. Was there no alternative solution?” said Madhusudan Padua, a resident of Haldia and a member of a group called ‘Chalo Paltai’. The group has planned a silent protest march on July 15 in Haldia township from Makhanbabur Bazar to Sector IV, followed by a protest meeting.