The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pollution peril for birds, beasts after Diwali
- Sound of Firecrackers ‘traumatise’ feathered friends, pets: ecologist

Ranchi, Oct. 29: The boom of crackers and the dazzle of fireworks on Diwali may delight residents, but the sights and sounds of the festival takes a toll on birds and beasts of the capital.

Though the noise, smoke and sizzle of the brightest festival is over, the city will have to wait for at least a fortnight before the birds return to their normal routine fearlessly, to chirp and wake residents in the morning.

Experts say, birds undergo a drastic behavioural change during Diwali time and stop chirping for a while, as they are “traumatised” by the smoke, lights and the sounds.

Ecologist Nitish Priyadarshi explains that birds are hyper sensitive to loud noises and smoke that adversely affect their mental frame.

Since Diwali is not restricted to a single day and people continue celebrating for two to three days, the sounds and the thick smog keep birds away for a longer while.

They resume normal behaviour and chirps only after they are completely sure of their safety, Priyadarshi added.

Birds have an in-built biological clock that makes them start the day early and retire by dusk, when darkness falls. But, the lights of Diwali confuse that clock. While bigger birds are less affected, smaller species are the worst hit. Usually birds are seen retreating into trees for a long time, but there, too, a rogue cracker or two often cause genuine physical harm to them.

There are several cases of birds being burnt or singed by the fireworks.

Apart from the feathered animals, man’s best friends are also adversely affected during Diwali. They show their stress by barking unnecessarily and they are often seen drinking more water, shivering and by whining.

As veterinarian A. Kumar pointed out the dogs’ super sensitive ears pick up the noises better than us and the poor creatures do not understand the meaning of the sounds and feel insecure. Incidences of pets running off or getting lost in this time, are not rare as dogs’ sense of direction also gets fuzzy.

Though the symptoms are stronger among the animals, humans, too, suffer from the Diwali aftermath.

The pall of smoke that hung around the city today, a day after Diwali, is detrimental for humans and animals alike because it induces respiratory problems.

For environmentalist Rakesh Sinha the post-Diwali smog is more a cause for concern than any other substance, as it contains poisonous gasses that leave symptomatic effects such as headaches, irritation and allergies often for weeks after celebrations.

“The suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the gasses remains in the atmosphere for a longer time — thus residents do breathe in sometime. Animals, too, are affected by the smoke. The SPM gets deposited in the trachea, bronchi and lungs causing allergy, irritation and even asthma attacks.

“The pollutants during Diwali are also responsible for increasing chances of heart attacks coupled with high blood pressure,” Sinha said.

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