Building a place called home

This environmentalist is placing eco-friendly nests in Delhi to rehabilitate sparrows
Rakesh Khatri taking birds’ nest-making workshops for different school students. (File photo)
Rakesh Khatri taking birds’ nest-making workshops for different school students. (File photo)

There was a time when one could see house sparrows flitting from trees to buildings all around the country. “I feel a house sparrow is the best barometer of the ecosystem. They eat all the insects that are quite harmful,” says Rakesh Khatri, who has earned the sobriquet the ‘Nest Man of India’. Over time, these small birds have dwindled in number due to urbanisation, and are in danger of extinction.

“Earlier, sparrows would make nests on fans or other small holes in old houses. But nowadays, flats have no such place for them. My attempt is to rehabilitate them in the smallest way possible,” adds Khatri. Keeping in mind the urgent plea of these helpless birds, Khatri launched an initiative in 1984 to provide homes to birds in the country. Till date, he has constructed and installed approximately 2.5 lakh nests for birds all across the country.

The eco-friendly birds’ nests crafted
by Khatri

Crafting with determination
Khatri, who currently lives in Mayur Vihar, was first introduced to birds at his childhood home in Chandni Chowk. At the time, the nooks and crannies of their Old Delhi house hosted many birds that Khatri’s family would give shelter. When he shifted to Ashok Vihar in 1984, Khatri was dismayed by the concrete jungle that Delhi had become.

At this point, he actively started creating small nests for birds. He crafted them using several materials such as coconut husks, dry grass, and newspapers. Khatri would then hang these nests in various parts of his neighbourhood. Although his first attempt was almost a failure—out of the 40 nests he had installed in Ashok Vihar, only one had two small birds in it—Khatri was determined to keep constructing such nests in the city. “At first, people laughed at me. They would tell me that I was making the birds lazy. I would point out that they had not left any space for the birds. Those two small birds gave me renewed hope,” he shares.

A conscious change
Through his non-profit organisation Eco Roots Foundation (ERF)—it was founded in 2012—Khatri and his team of 12 have collaborated with various departments of the Delhi Government (Department of Science and Technology), schools, as well as a number of corporations and organised workshops on nest-making.

Khatri’s innovative ways of using natural materials such as wood, bamboo, jute strings, as well as recycled tetra pack, have made him the recipient of a number of accolades. He has also been mentioned twice in the Limca Book of Records.

His organisation also helps keep regular track of the nests installed either by them or others in the community. “We ask people to send us photographs of nests so that we know when a bird decides to roost in it.”Along with sparrow rehabilitation, ERF also conducts nature trails for children as well as performs live theatre on topics such as climate change and water conservation.

Talking about the importance of conserving nature, Khatri concludes, “I like to say, nature does not need us, we need nature. So do not misuse nature’s resources, because once they are gone, it will affect us the most.”

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The New Indian Express