The number and sub-species of kites have decreased drastically during the past 3 – 5 decades. Locally they were known in many a name. The one picture down here is not seen here, if not rarely, known as shankhachil. We used to see more often of them swooping down to catch fishes in front of us children. They used to sit atop big trees making shrill sound on seeing a prey. I used to see some black or red kite feeding young ones on a palm tree from our house. I think decreasing vegetation along with indiscriminate application of chemicals on crops have a deciding role.
Field cranes have decreased naturally in numbers as big trees species around the villages are not in sight presently where they can nest and take shelter. I could see from our house a number of cranes atop a big tree, locally known as aankar/aankor tree. This was a kind of berry tree. The tree was tall, the fruits were black, soft, juicy, the pulp transparent, the seeds were small and soft, the taste was light sweet and small was not so pleasant. It would smell the smell of raw fish. As child we would eat it, not very often. as the smell was not so good. This type of trees are not generally found nowadays. This was the only tree of such species. It had grown wild and is no more now. I have searched a lot , on Google, Wikis, on Bengali blogs spanning throughout West bengal and Bangladesh, but could not find! What a grief, what a loss, I can not express in words! Can any botanist help? This had been the single tree in our village. Every villagers knew what were the major trees in the village with mango trees being most common.
One important aspect is that there had been a particular type of call of the cranes when they would sit atop the tree which the villagers used to identify as the sign of inviting the rains to come. And it would happen, they villagers used to believe.
Great Loss in Biodiversity
Use of chemicals in agriculture has led to a great loss in biodiversity without any pinch of doubt ! My mind lives in those golden days, what I saw in my childhood days ! The cacophony of so-called modern world has outpaced the serene pristine world where peace, happiness and tranquility prevails over the world of fast hefty competitiveness and consumerism. Where we are have yielded before a lifeless mechanical chemical-dependent system which ruthlessly neglects the very near and far future in its fragile target to assure the food need of today and tomorrow only, not beyond that. And that food is vitiated, polluted, poisoned, not nourishment in true sense !
The present agriculture production system brazenly defies the very basis of integrative bio-social ecology. The chemicals we use are , as we think, are target-specific, which they are not when it comes to their effect on actual field. Another problem is that we are not applying the package of practices of crop rearing completely, we are following partially. The farmers are at a receiving end. They can not decide on their own, they are administered. They are motivated by others. The package is not applied. Only a part or some part of the package is applied. They are advised to apply a package, but they apply the part which produce visible outcome. That ‘visible’ outcome is just a mirage, not true.
The crops consume Nitrogenous fertilizers in luxury mode. Like fast food. The leaves and stems becoming deep green, hyper-healthy looking, but tender and sappy attracting and falling easy prey to disease and pest attack. The plants are not on a ‘balanced diet’ when they are fed only with nitrogenous fertilizers, namely urea. Yes, urea is easily available, easy to buy and carry and apply and the crops jump up, but like a diabetic become vulnerable, immuno-deficient, less or lack of immunity! Because the diet is not wholesome, it is ‘partial’, with lackings in Potash, Phosphate and other macro and micronutrients as the farmers have not applied organic manures and phosphate and potassic fertilizers!
You are not applying the organic manure, phosphate and potash. So the foundation is sure to be a weak one. Then applying excessive urea over it makes the plants fragile, vulnerable. In case of deficiency symptoms we prescribe micronutrient and hormone therapy available in the market in attractive packages and plastic bottles that are company-made and sometimes from unmonitored local and regional mushrooming enterprises.
Bird Biodiversity in Danger !
Not only the earthworms have vanished from the paddy fields, but some very common creatures in the paddy fields like different types of field crabs, snails have also vanished from the paddy field ecology, along with the fishes. I think this is a great loss in terms of biodiversity and sources of proteins in the day-to-day diet of the villagers in general and the poorest of the poor, in particular. The villagers spanned from big farmers to small ! Extinction and/or diminution of these fishes, crabs, snails have robbed the villagers, both farmers and non-farmers ( including landless labourers ) of their livelihood and nutritional security to a great extent !
This has also led to the loss of biodiversity of birds as well in consequence to absence and/or near-absence of all these field crabs, snails, oysters (from ponds) etc. serving as food sources and resources. Field cranes (of different types), dahuks (waterhen), guruls, kites esp. sankhacheel, pankouri, baalihans, chatakpakhi, etc. (local Bengali name) have diminished a lot while nilkantho/texona, while tuntuni, vulture, babui, chorui etc. have totally vanished from our area !
It would not be irrelevant here to say something about the birds as these birds are very much related to ‘ Serene Pristine Unforgettable Agriculture’ and they are important bioindicators of the ecological condition of a particular time period. They are quite effective to control crop and plant pests as well. Most of the birds species are threatened due to their steadily decreasing habitat and so-called plant protection chemicals.