On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the Uttarayan Kite Festival in Ahmedabad, Gujarat is celebrated amidst much pomp. But, a shocking reality mars the festivities almost every year. Many people sustain serious injuries due to the ‘Chinese’ kite threads – which are coated with fine glass powder by the flyers for strengthening.
Perhaps the worst affected are thousands of helpless birds, whose flight were cut short by the deadly threads flying all around. The birds fail to notice the thin, near-transparent threads during their flight. As a result, they end up severely injuring themselves, very often leading to death. Pigeons, macaques and fruit-bats are the common victims.
However, there is a silver lining for the wounded avians. Ahmedabad District Collectorate launched the Karuna Abhiyan (Mercy Mission) campaign, aiming to save as many birds as possible, who are injured during the Kite Festival. The CMO Gujarat website states that last year around 23,000 bird lives was saved through this initiative.
Karuna Abhiyan 2019
This year, 11 rescue and rehabilitation centres for the birds were set up all across Ahmedabad, in coordination with the Department of Animal Husbandry as well as the Forest Department. Around 2,023 volunteers from 40 NGOs participated actively in the programme and have rescued around 4,506 birds in the past two days, reported Ahmedabad Mirror. Reportedly, ten veterinary ambulances are plying the city for rescuing any injured bird in sight. The rescued birds are presently being treated at the animal and bird shelters across the city.
“Karuna Abhiyan has been a very successful campaign. The birds which got injured during Uttarayan are being treated so that they can fly again. They will be kept in the shelter for few days till they fully recover,” said District Collector Vikrant Pandey.
Harshad Shah from NGO Namo Namah which saved around 550 birds informed that they had found many wounded kites and pigeons, aside from endangered birds like barn owls, rump vultures and cranes.
NGO Shree Cultural Foundation organised awareness programmes in schools and residential complexes to inform kids how their kite strings can injure birds. They also trained the youngsters to attend an injured bird and call for help if necessary.
Detailed statistics of the campaign
According to data shared on the CMO Gujarat website, ‘1962’ Animal Help Line Ambulance Service has been set up in 11 major cities of Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, where clinics for injured birds are being managed by expert veterinarians and volunteers. All these clinics have primary as well as post-operative and ICU facilities.
In each of the cities, an animal rescue helpline will remain active from 7 AM to 6 PM every day between January 10 and January 20. “In total, over a 1,000 clinics, 661 rescue teams and 576 teams, which will remove hanging threads from trees and electricity poles, are pressed into the services,” reads the website bulletin.
Apart from the government initiatives, nearly 270 NGOs are also participating in the Karuna Abhiyan with a total of 46 ambulances, 244 clinics and nearly 500 doctors.