Every morning during the late spring this year, I woke up with the shriek of a Black kite. I know her for two years now. She builds her nest in a cell phone tower located on the top of a nearby five-storied building. I hardly paid any attention in the past.
This year, probably drawn by her distinct, prolonged call that pierced the morning's tranquillity, I started keeping an eye on the nest. As the nest was located several stories higher than mine, it was impossible to sneak a peek at the nest for any birdling or egg.
But I kept up surveillance. My hope was to see the bird feeding her young, and probably see them coming out of the nest someday.
But it never happened.
The kite just sat on a strut of the tower next to the nest, and continued crying out. From the very beginning, its prolonged call seemed sad to me for some reason. And then I started to suspect if the nestlings even survived. Or even if any of the eggs hatched in the first place.
But it was not the only part that saddened me. Seeing a kite nesting on a cell tower is like watching a homeless person taking shelter wherever he can.
And then, are these towers, emitting strong electromagnetic radiation, even a good place for nesting? Can the eggs and the nestlings (if any) survive the high temperature of the heat island called Dhaka city without any shade?
Uncertainty surrounds ongoing debate on the impact of cell towers on birds and humans. But one thing is certain- birds have been nesting on trees way before cell towers started to exist, and they thrived.
Many birds choose branches high enough from human reach for obvious reasons, although some species nest on the ground too.
What do they do when there are not enough big trees?
The kite on the cell tower is not the only one in the neighbourhood. Just eighty metres away, another kite lives on the roof of an under-construction high-rise building. And this is one of the ways how the birds of the city are trying to cope with the aggression of what we fondly call development.
We've been taught, plants give us oxygen. When you think of oxygen generation only, planting seedlings replacing old trees is probably a good idea. Because, plants in their growth phase sequester more carbon as biomass than old ones whose growth has stopped. But a full grown tree's role as a habitat of numerous wildlife has never got enough coverage in our education.
But that is only the second problem in hand.
The first one is, we hardly realise the importance of other lives that share the planet with humans. Just a few weeks ago, farmers in Jhalakathi and Pirojpur set fire to dozens of Weaver bird nests with birdlings inside them for the 'crime' of feeding on grains from the nearby fields. Little did the farmers know that the role of the birds in the ecosystem greatly outweighs the 'loss' incurred. Lynching of various cat species and other wildlife is also a commonplace in the country.
You think it is because those farmers do not have academic degrees?
What about the high street developers, planners and policymakers who are supposedly working to build a 'better' and 'beautiful' city?
According to a TBS report published in November last year, for the metro rail project alone, around 1,500 mature trees were felled. In the last few months, trees on the road divider from Mirpur Cricket Stadium to Sony Cinema Hall bus stand had to go during the demolition and reconstruction of what seemed a perfect road divider.
The same happened to the trees on the road divider in Dhanmondi 27 just a week ago. Luckily, citizens' protests and subsequent noise on social media stopped the cutting in mid-way, and the contractor is now attempting to continue the work leaving the remaining trees in place. They still cut the roots dangerously, and time will say if the trees will be able to survive.
And now, in the never ending series of similar events, developers are cutting decades old trees in the Suhrawardi Park to make way for restaurants, walkways and other facilities.
In all of the abovementioned events, project officials said more trees would be planted to compensate for the tree-felling. And authorities do plant trees every year.
However, according to Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, the activist who triggered the protest to save the trees in Dhanmondi 27, the city authorities plant new saplings at the same places every year, because they hardly look after those plants. At the same time, trees get cut for another project soon. As a result, Dhaka's greeneries do not expand.
The city is not only for the humans. There is still a wide array of wildlife fighting for their share of space in it. The absence of enough mature trees and bushes that do not look good in the eyes of the prophets of development (remember the developers who imported and planted bonsai trees for beautification of Airport Road) is hitting them hard. The Black kites perching and nesting on the towers show the truth.
And it is all because even the people with the highest academic degrees, authority, and all the privileges did not find enough time to learn about the importance of wildlife, and the intricate co-relation between the flora and fauna and to appreciate the biodiversity of the planet we call home.
As a result, the never ending 'development' activities fail to improve the lives of city dwellers- humans and wildlife alike.