August 24, 2019
Coimbatore : A National Centre for Avian Ecotoxicology was inaugurated at Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural Sciences (SACON) to study the movement of environmental contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, poly chlorinated biphenyls and drugs through food chain and their harmful effects on birds.
The centre, inaugurated by Union Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar, would explore the impact of chemical contaminants on individual species of birds and, where possible, link them to population and communities.
Ecotoxicological studies assume significance at a stage when ecological factors are unable to explain continued mortality of birds leading to population decline over a period.
Highlighting the almost extinction of vultures from 40 million to nearly 1,000 in India, Javadekar said the Government had banned Diclofenac given to cattle, due to which vultures were dying.
Similar was the case of Amur Falcons, which used to come to Nagaland from Malayasia to roost, he said.
In the recent past, the centre has documented the levels of contaminants in around 125 species of birds received from different parts of India. Sarus crane, demoiselle crane, vulture, peafowl and pelican are a few to name. Analytical chemistry, being an integral part of ecotoxicological studies, warrants state-of-the-art analytical equipment to quantify and qualify the presence of elusive chemicals in different biological and non-biological matrices.
The Ministry has a project at an estimated cost of Rs 4 crore for modernising the facility at SACON and a centre of excellence to handle the challenges posed by the continued entry of newer chemicals into the environment, he said.
While there might be analytical facility available elsewhere in the country to deal with environmental contamination, SACON was the only institute which did ecotoxicological research, focusing on birds, he said..
The modernized facility at SACON, equipped with sophisticated instruments, would help to estimate the levels of an array of chemicals such as pesticides, heavy metals and even drugs.
Eventually, the output would help the Government in framing policies towards protecting not only birds but also other forms, Javadekar said.