The return of vultures to the Kolkata sky after a three-year gap has delighted the Parsi community in Kolkata despairing of the loss of their traditional way of disposing the deceased.
The vultures’ reappearance has been particularly welcomed by lone Parsi activist Dhan Baria who has been pursuing an alternative to leaving the dead on the ‘Tower of Silence’ after the number of birds dwindled alarmingly in Mumbai as well.
”It is definitely a very good news for the Parsi community,” Baria said.
Baria, who lives in Mumbai, was the first man to show the world photographs of piles of rotten, half-eaten bodies from the Tower there and vigorously campaigned for doing away with the practice of leaving corpses to be fed by vultures.
”It no longer works. Vultures have died and disappeared with the indiscriminate cutting down of tall palm trees around the Tower by realtors,” 67-year-old Baria said.
The birds disappeared from the city sky in 2005. Recently around 20 of them have been sighted near Race Course and the nests were spotted on a few tall trees near Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, suggesting the birds are breeding again.
Bird-lovers and forest officials have described the development as ”great news”. The state forest department has launched a vulture-breeding programme at Buxa Tiger Reserve in north Bengal.
The disappearance of the vultures has been attributed to the widespread use of ”diclofenac”, a medicine to treat cattle whose carrion they feed on.
Baria had appealed to the High Priests of the Parsi community that they be permitted to burn or bury bodies.
”The emotion of a person whose parents’ bodies decompose or dry out over two to three years will never appeal to them,” she rued and said they were not providing space to bury or construct a crematorium.
She also regretted that the decision of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat to spend Rs one crore in vulture breeding has not yet materialised.
”It was shelved as the project cannot guarantee that vultures will flock to the tower premises. The vultures have lost their nests after tall trees around the tower there were felled and tall buildings mushroomed,” Baria said.
Decomposition of bodies also create a lot of foul smell and health hazard, she said alleging that the solar panels set up around the Tower to dehydrate the bodies was also not working.
Original article here.