Acidic Rain in City Causing Bees and Birds to Die?
This summer, citizens in many parts of the city have reported mysterious deaths of bees and birds. And going by claims made by environmentalists and bird watchers, it may either be due to acidic rain, dehydration, or electronic and biodegradable waste contamination, which adversely affects the food chain.
Noted environmentalist and former special secretary (Environment) Yellappa Reddy opines that after a long dry spell, the first showers may be acidic containing carbonic, nitric and sulfuric acid. “With the recent, isolated rains in the city, the acidic shock on the bees’ body and vital parts would have killed them.
Unfortunately, there is no monitoring of fumes that emanate from chimneys, burning of waste, unscientific recycling of electronic waste which is disposed off crudely, thus entering the air and water bodies. Even accumulated garbage bins have dioxins that are deadly to all living beings,” he says.
Recently, Suman M, a resident of Richards Town reported the death of a lot of bees near her apartment complex. She said, “Almost every day, we can see them dying near our house. For what reason, we don’t know, but now it looks like a graveyard of bees.”
Another resident in Chikkalasandra, Sharat reported the death of a pair of koels and his inability to save them despite providing water and shelter. However, Professor of Zoology, M S Reddy, Centre for Apiculture Studies, Bangalore University says unless he visits the area where the bees died, it is very difficult to ascertain the reasons.
“As it is, the bees which thrive in large numbers, might have died due to aging. Coconut, Pongamia trees and other flowering plants in buildings attract bees in large numbers. Most residents are scared of their sting and try to drive them away by using heavy doses of pesticide spray. There is need to bring in awareness and educate people and not to kill them,” the professor adds.
A bird watcher, Narayan has reported the death of Kites on Ittamadu Road near Ring Road. He says, “The big drain on this road is replete with dumping of animal waste from the nearby chicken and meat shops and the birds consume this contaminated waste and die a painful death. No amount of education on our part has stopped this and only strict laws can prevent this indiscriminate dumping.”
There are other reasons which are being cited. According to Reddy, with changes in lifestyle and increase in the city’s population, the usage of plastic cups for consumption of hot and cold beverages has increased. “Attracted by the sweetness in coffee, tea, fruit juices and cold drinks, many bees come scouting and lap it up, thinking it is nectar. With the absence of floral habitat in most areas of the city, this is not surprising. Not only their wings stick to the cups but they die a slow death after imbibing these artificial sweeteners,” adds Reddy.
Adding to Reddy’s observations, an avid bird watcher and ornithologist, Arun Kulige says, “Even the so-called biodegradable paper cups contain a small amount of chemicals to give it a certain amount of plasticity and bees attracted by the remnants of beverages in this, have been perishing not only in Bangalore but also in the US, as many scientific studies have indicated.”
On the other hand, CUPA Manager, T Ramesh says, “We cannot come to a conclusion unless a detailed scientific study is done to ascertain whether acid rains have caused the death of the bees. They sometimes die because of strong winds and resulting dust in summer season. However, in the recent times, biodegradable waste dumped in many parts of the city has been affecting the food habits of birds and particularly the Pariah Kites.”
Many Kites die every day after consuming this contaminated food. Dehydration is also a factor, he adds. “Chemicals in the dumped waste is like a fragrance for the Kites and attracted by this, they eat this food and poisoned by it, choke to death. These are the ill-effects of bad solid waste management in the city,” he laments.
Kulige concludes, “Many birds like Great Painted Snipes, Babblers, Spotted Doves, Parakeets, Warblers, Song birds and winter migrants like Green Sandpiper have been affected. However, the birds, especially the ones which are making their way back home, have been intensely affected by the heat as well as the isolated spell of rains in the city. If one recollects, British miners used to carry canary birds to be warned of the existence of poisonous gases like carbon monoxide and methane in the mining shafts. Now any change in the environment, the bees and birds are affected first with the withering of their bodies. However, with emissions increasing in the city, there is definitely a need to do a study on its deleterious effect on birds.”