Environment-conscious officials in the government have warned that the proliferation of mobile communication towers has severely affected the arrival of migratory birds in India, say experts, pointing to the drop in their numbers over the years.
A migratory bird's brain is oriented between the North and South poles to find its direction, and the radiation from cellphone towers impairs this natural sense of direction, scientists say.
This is yet another blow to India's fast-dwindling population of migratory birds, already hard hit by environmental degradation along with rampant poaching - as with the case of Mumbai's flamingos.
"The brain cells in the migratory birds help them track the route between North and South Poles. Therefore (due to cell tower radiations) they migrate to India during odd seasons and go back when the environment in their native place is unsuitable," said Ram Lakhan Singh, former principal chief conservator of forest and now steering committee member of the Planning Commission's latest Five Year Plan (2012-17).
He said according to the international Bird Convention, to which India is a partner signatory, the 160 species of migratory birds cannot be hunted down; but the growing number of mobile towers is affecting their numbers both in urban and rural areas.
Out of the total 8,000 species of birds in the world, as many as 1,295 arrive in India – normally during Diwali – and return in spring, during the Holi season.
The declining trend in migratory birds can be arrested with the right measures. "The right kind of protection to the sites of migratory water birds, as well as preventive and timely management of their protected habitat might do wonders," said Neeraj Srivastav, a government official and wildlife enthusiast.
He said two things need to be kept in mind in this regard - one is diversity and other density.
"Even though the number of migratory birds has not increased, we have greater diversity now due to exploration of new areas. Birds like the black stork, the greater flamingo, the common merganser, the spot-billed pelican, the bar-headed goose, the lesser adjutant, the black-necked stork, the sarus crane and other threatened wetland species can be found here," said Srivastav.