In the second-largest greater metropolitan area on Earth, one man’s dedication and love of the common sparrow have the potential to transform a generation of young Indians.
Rakesh Khatri, known as the “Nest Man of India,” has always found sparrows a source of “great joy” and even growing up in the bustling streets of Delhi, wherever he saw the simple seed-eating birds, he was gladened.
In an effort to make sure the sparrows of Delhi have a home in the big city, Khatri builds nests out of coconut husks, cotton, jute, rattan, and other materials, and has already hosted nest-building workshops in 3,500 schools across India, totaling more than 100,000 pupils.
“On my way to my office in south Delhi, I would see a large number of birds that would give me great joy. One day I saw a couple of men cementing the holes in the pipes where birds had taken refuge. When I told them I would file a complaint with the National Green Tribunal, they stopped immediately,” Khatri told the Guardian referring to the statutory body that deals with environmental cases.
Before the 1980s industrial boom in Delhi, Khatri’s home near a bustling marketplace was filled with sparrows. The terrace of his family house had several nests there, and his family used to wake to their pleasant chirping every morning.
More and more, the small nooks and crannies in old buildings where the sparrows would nest were disappearing, and so Khatri sought to ensure they remained welcome in Delhi by starting the Ecoroots Foundation and teaching school children to build their nests for them.
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His efforts, The Better India reports, have resulted in nearly half-a-million nests being made entirely of recycled or biodegradable natural materials.
“There’s no greater blessing than building a home for a sparrow whose home has been snatched by [humanity],” says the Nest Man. “We need nature, but nature doesn’t need us. If we wish to live and keep ourselves happy, then we need to work together with nature, because she supports us the most.”
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