Eliminating plastic, especially single-use plastics can help save lives of birds, lakhs of whom fall prey to the devastating impact of plastic pollution and die.
Plastics are part of our everyday lives from packaging to PET bottles to pouches. It amounts to a waste of 275 million tonnes every year, half of them being single-use plastic. Microplastic is the latest entrant which is creating havoc deep down in our oceans.
Apart from human beings, birds also do get affected by plastic pollution. Birds are guards of our environmental system and act as an early warning system not only for themselves but also for the human race.
IMPACT OF PLASTICS ON BIRDS
Birds sometimes mistake plastic as their food, lodging it in their digestive tracts & causing them to die as they cannot digest. Fishing gear, long filaments and ring-shaped items injure them and hinder their mobility. Birds pick up plastics to line their nests mistaking it for leaves or twigs. Fragile chicks are easily trapped and hurt by the plastic debris.
Plastic pollution is creating havoc to the lives of the migratory birds. Wandering Albatross ( 10000 kms) , Bar-tailed Godwit (12000 kms), Sooty Shearwater (32500 kms), Ruby throated hummingbirds ( 1400 kms) etc. are all species of migratory birds which travel incredible distances from one part of the world to another.
Countless items of plastics end up being discarded in rivers or wetlands or oceans which is seriously impacting their migratory habits.
Plastic is found in every single albatross bolus (chewed food). More than 89% of dead adult birds – had plastic in their stomachs. Albatross go to great lengths to feed their young. But they’re feeding them sharp, toxic plastic mistaking it for multi coloured squid or cuttlefish near the surface of the ocean.
Urban birds for building their nests exchange natural materials for artificial ones usually found mainly in the garbage as nesting material. Natural cotton materials obtained from plant seeds are exchanged with polyester; some dry leaves are exchanged with pieces of plastic bags, and sticks are exchanged with plastic ropes or plastic sticks.
Apart from threats like agriculture intensification ( cutting down forest coverage ), illegal hunting ( thereby endangering various species ) and pesticides/fertilizers ( land pollution), Microplastics are the new emerging threat that is affecting 90% of the sea birds globally apart from marine lives.
Our fast-paced lifestyle and endless production of greenhouse gases are having non -reversible impact to the planet Earth. We need to rethink as to how do we live and coexist with the birds especially the migratory ones. We need to preserve a healthy planet for ourselves as well as migratory birds.
As Ban Ki-moon ( former Secretary-General of UN ) famously said: “there is no plan B as we do not have planet B.”
Ms Divya Panchal ( a bird watcher) TYBCom, K J Somaiya College of Arts & Commerce