Although Virudhunagar district is considered a hub of cracker-manufacturing hub, residents of a small hamlet Sankarapandiapuram near here refrain from bursting firecrackers during Diwali.
The villagers say they observe this departure from tradition in order to preserve the ecosystem.
According to sources, for the past 30 years birds like storks and pelicans have been migrating to the village to nest in trees near the village tank in October and often stay there till April. The villagers said that they try not to disturb the birds during this period.
Though a drought-like situation has affected the migration of birds in the last two years, the villagers stick to their decision not to burst crackers.
Thirupathi, a villager, said that the birds built nests and bred on the trees near the Sankarapandiapuram Oorani.
He said that after setting up the nests, the birds went in search of fish in the nearby Vembakottai and Kolvarpatti dams.
They lay eggs and once the eggs hatch, the birds leave the nest and the hatchlings by April. This has been a routine every year, Thirupathi said.
“This is a pleasant period for all of us who enjoy the presence of the birds between our village and the dams. Many children spend their evenings near the tank counting the birds,” said Rengasamy, a village elder, adding that villagers advise the children see that the tradition is passed on to the next generation.
However, in order to appease curious children, some parents do buy low-intensity crackers but they are asked to go outside the village to burst them, Rengasamy said.
C Vigneshwaran, a Class 9 student, said, “Since I was a kid my parents used to tell us about the migration of the birds and instructed us not to burst crackers in the village.”
He said that when the festive season arrived, the children went outside the hamlet to burst crackers.
“I can recollect an incident that happened four years ago when a tree where the birds were nesting caught fire. The birds left the spot immediately. The villagers swung into action and started spraying water on the tree to put out the blaze,” Vigneshwaran said.
He pointed out that even after the incident, the birds came back and nested in the same tree.
However, due to insufficient amount of water in the dams and in the oorani, the birds have not been spotted frequently for the past two years, he added.
According to an environmentalist, Sankarapandiapuram is identified as a significant sanctuary for birds like painted storks and pelicans that migrate here for breeding.
However, the situation has changed in the past two years.
Considering that the site helps the various birds in breeding, the district administration should take necessary steps to replenish the oorani in the village, Vigneshwaran said.