Pakhi Ghar – A Quest for sustainable nest for birds to co-exist with human beings

Kolkata: Birds in urban areas are indicators of biodiversity. Gone are the days when we used to get up in the morning amidst playful chirping of a flock of  birds flapping their wings  around us.  There was a time when one could leisurely enjoy the chatter of house  sparrows in the courtyard , the natural barometer of the ecosystem.  People used to take care of birds nested in  the high corners of skylights in  the room and refrained from switching  on the fans. In a rapidly urbanizing modern world, ensuring biodiversity in cities is one of the primary responsibilities of real estate companies , urban designers and architects.

 In an effort to conceptualize an eco friendly nest for birds and rehabilitate birds, Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage and  Merlin I am Kolkata, a CSR Initiative of Merlin Group organizing a daylong workshop in collaboration with Energy Efficient Built Environment Lab, Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University, Kolkata today.

The Theme of the Workshop was “ Conceptualizing Habitats for Bird shelter in Urban Areas and making/building a prototype with appropriate upcycled/recycled organic/inorganic waste materials.” Building birdhouses can be an involved activity that includes many steps of the architectural and engineering process, such as designing a prototype, and deciding what materials and tools to use. The waste material for the workshop  was  supplied  by  “Abartani” – an integrated waste management project at New Town, AA Block  initiated by Merlin Group Under its CSR arm Merlin  I am  Kolkata  in collaboration with KSCH.  Total 15kgs of paper waste were used during this workshop. Students also used other environment friendly waste material for their installations.

The Theme of the Workshop was “Conceptualizing Habitats for Bird shelter in Urban Areas and making/building a prototype with appropriate upcycled/recycled organic/inorganic waste materials.” Total of 15kgs of paper waste used during this workshop was supplied by the CSR project of Merlin Group.

“Birds used to perch on their favourite trees in the city, however, they miss out on those trees in the city and now they are resting in different parts of buildings. We have designed this workshop and involved our students. The students were mentored by renowned young professional architects in the city. They have come up with innovative designs. We are planning to keep these bird habitats at different locations in the university and will see how useful they are. We are planning to involve school students also in the future and make it a movement for the peaceful living of the avian species. said Professor Madhumita Roy, Architecture department, Jadavpur University, and convenor of the workshop - “Pakhighar”.

“Birds are an integral part of our ecosystem where we all are connected to each other. The need of the hour is to look for some bird-friendly architecture in our buildings so that avian species and human population can live in harmony. We from Merlin will focus on biophilic architecture in our projects and try to incorporate some bird-friendly habitats from this workshop in our projects”, said Saket Mohta, Managing Director, Merlin Group.

Merlin, I am Kolkata , the CSR arm of Merlin group has been part of this Pakhighar project where the waste materials from their corporate social responsibility project “Abartani” at New Town in collaboration with Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage was used at the workshop. The project Abartani – took off in the year  2019 before the pandemic at the AA block, New Town.  volunteers of KSCH and self-help group women collected solid waste material on a regular basis for two years.

“We conducted training for the SHG women to upcycle the recycled waste into innovative products like tables, bags, mobile covers, decorative pieces, Thus reducing carbon footprint and preventing them from filling the landfill in the city”, said Sourav Mukherjee, President, Kolkata Society for cultural heritage.

“This kind of workshop will help to describe properties of waste materials to be used for other utility products. Different birds require different-sized houses. It is important to make people aware of the concept”, signed off Sourav Mukherjee, from Kolkata Society for cultural heritage, one of the organizers of the workshop.

The Project was inaugurated  by Dr . Kalyan Rudra, Chairman - West Bengal Pollution Control Board. . Over 50  Students from 5 Renowned Educational Institutes  namely Jadavpur University Kolkata; Amity University Kolkata; Sister Nivedita University Kolkata; Om Dayal College of Architecture, Uluberia and Techno India University, Kolkata attended the workshop.  Ten mentors from  the discipline of  Architecture guided the students. A 5 member jury panel  comprising Prof. Shubhrajit Das, Department of Architecture – Jadavpur University Kolkata, Dr. Jayita Guha Niyogi, Department of Architecture – Jadavpur University Kolkata, Architect Abin Choudhuri, Founder and Principal Architect – Abin Design Studio, Dr. Mainak Ghosh, Associate Professor and HOD, Department of Architecture – Jadavpur University Kolkata, Ar. Deyali Mukherjee, Architect and Film Maker adjudged the installations designed  by  the students.

Dr. Rajesh Kumar IPS - Member Secretary - West Bengal Pollution Control Board was present in the valedictory session. Mr. Saket Mohta , Managing director, Merlin Group and founder of Merlin I’m Kolkata, Shri Sourav Mukherjee, Founder KSCH,  presented prizes and certificates to the students along with Prof Madhumita Roy, the convenor of this  initiative.

Sourav Mukherjee, Founder member of KSCH said, “This kind of workshops will help to describe properties of waste materials to be used for other utility products. Different birds require different sized houses. It is important to aware people regarding the concept.”

“Birds also need shelter for protection from weather and predators, and to safely hatch eggs. We appreciate the idea and concept of the project. It is important to pass this responsibility to our next generation to create a sustainable world”, added Saket Mohta.

Central as well as State Government is committed to the goals of conserving biological diversity and promoting sustainable development using solid waste. Birds are considered as one of the most important environmental indicators. The presence of avian species is directly proportional to the well-being of humans and trees because of various reasons. Most of the existing research on birds is on their behavior, presence but hardly there is any focus on the impact of changing built environment on birds in urban areas. Such impact could only be assessed if there is an estimation of bird species in an area. Presently there is no such information is available about the population of birds in Kolkata.  An attempt was taken to have an estimation of birds in Kolkata city for the first time through the present study.

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