Impact of Electromagnetic Radiations on House Sparrows (Passer Domesticus)

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Impact of Electromagnetic Radiations on House Sparrows (Passer Domesticus)

Lakhera Pradha

Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology University of Technology Sydney

AbstractThe proposed research is focussed towards study- ing the impact of the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone base stations on the house sparrows (Passer Domesticus) in Delhi, India; thereby, proposing an alternative feasible solu- tion for the same. Moreover, these biological indicators of envi- ronmental changes have been diminishing at an exponential rate and hence, seeks attention. In the recent decade the mobile phone network infrastructure has grown at a rapid rate and numerous base stations have been incorporated in the urban areas which emit high level of Electromagnetic Radiations and is one of the main causes for the decline in the population of house sparrows. In this research, we will verify that the Electromag- netic Radiation is one of the major factors for the decline in the population of house sparrows in the urban areas including the other factors as well. The proposed research will follow three methods to estimate the current population of house sparrows in the Delhi region which are Point Count, Nest Recording and Capturing and Tagging. Series of interviews will be carried out with the local people and the people in the fields of Ecology and Environmental Science to collect some data about the species, its habitat, sources of food, quality of food and what are the main causes of the decline in their population. Also some statistical data will be collected from the people in the field of Telecom- munication regarding the number of base stations and their frequency range. Furthermore, the research will benefit the society, wildlife and telecommunication industry as a whole.

KeywordsPasser Domesticus; Mobile Phone Masts; Elec- tromagnetic Radiation; Telecommunication.

I. INTRODUCTION (Passer Domesticus) House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)

The House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus) is a small bird nearly 14- 16 centimetre in length. The males and females are of similar size but are distinguishable from each other in the form of some features. Males have a grey crown, a chestnut back and neck and chestnut wings with black tips, white cheeks, and a grey rump and tail. Females are a uniform pale grey, with dark streaks on the wings. Males and females are of a similar size (The house sparrow Passer Domesticus 2007). House sparrows live near human settlements and also near farms, prefer to nest in the trees and houses.

There has been a drastic depreciation in the number of house sparrows across the globe. But a few attention has been given to this tiny bird due to its large number that is gradually decreasing. Also, these birds are quite homely and once ma- tured, move around within a kilometre from their home. These birds were commonly seen in the urban settlements, near farm fields and acted as human beings friends by feed- ing on the pests on the farms. Sparrows are the indicators of the health of the people on which they depend. But now, they

are sighted rarely and are declining at an alarming rate. House sparrow has been declared as the State Bird of Delhi by Delhis Chief Minister in a campaign to spread awareness about the bird (House sparrow listed as an endangered spe- cies 2012). Many reasons have been identified so far for the disappearance of this bird which are the use of unleaded pe- trol, radiation pollution from mobile phone base stations, pesticides and urbanization that has resulted in the lack of habitat. The radiations from base stations usually cause irrita- tion among the birds causing them to disappear to some other places where the radiation is low. Hence, this provides a clue for their disappearance from the cities.

  1. Research Question and thesis

    As the title suggests, the aim of this research is to find a correlation in the population of house sparrows with the elec- tromagnetic radiations in the form of microwaves from the mobile phone towers and hence, this becomes the question for the intended research. Furthermore, the thesis to this re- search is proposing a possible solution to the problem and thereby, benefitting the human beings as well as other crea- tures.

    Furthermore, there are a series of methodologies that will be employed in order to achieve the desired goal. The metho- dologies being employed initially are qualitative and as the research progresses the methods become more quantitative.

  2. Significance

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  1. RESEARCH AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

    The aim of this research is to detect and verify whether the decline in the population of house sparrows is a result of massive amount of mobile base stations in the Delhi region. The number of base stations in Delhi are 21,992 which is a huge amount which is bound to increase due to the introduc- tion of 3G technologies and therefore, the problem. Further- more, the research aims at proposing technical solutions to the current technology so as to reduce the radiation pollution caused by the electromagnetic radiations (microwaves) from these base stations. Some of these solutions have been identi- fied in section(4.3).

    Birds are good biological indicators for low intensity electromagnetic radiation due to their thin skulls with their feathers acting as dielectric receptors and with some of them being using magnetic navigation for propagation (Balmori 2005). Hence, to study their decline will also help deriving a correlation with the effect of the same on human beings.

  2. BACKGROUND

    Researchers have tried to find out the correlation between this birds population and the electromagnetic radiation inten- sity. They found out that the low bird density was observed in the areas with high electric field. Furthermore, the results were not appropriate as the studies were performed only where and when the bird population was high. Everaert and Bauwens(2007) studied the decline in the population of male house sparrows in correlation to microwaves from base sta- tions in Belgium. 150 locations in 6 areas were chosen and mapped using ArcGIS software and the results provided a negative impact of these radiations on the male house spar- rows which shows that the number of house sparrows were less in areas where the electric field strength from the base station was high (Everaert & Bauwens 2007). Furthermore, the studies also provided an evidence that the presence of microwaves also affect the insects and invertebrates who are a source of food for their young ones. The long term expo- sure to low intensity (pulsed) electromagnetic radiation from GSM base station have significant impact on the population of house sparrows (Everaert & Bauwens 2007) and it may also affect human beings living near base stations may suffer from a range of health problems like sleep disturbances, headaches, and also, there exists a higher risk of cancer. Elec- tromagnetic radiations affect the navigational skills of these birds and they certainly lose their way back to the nests. Though the authors drew a good correlation between the populatio of house sparrows and low- intensity (pulsed) electromagnetic radiation but lacks certain evidences proving their hypothesis.

    1. Telecommunications Statistics in India

      Telecommunications in the form of mobile technology was launched in India in 1995 and by 2012 the number of mobile phone subscribers reached a value of 811.59 million and a rise is expected by 2013 (Amruth 2011). Recent ad- vancements in the communication technology has increased the demand for mobile services and hence, a tremendous amount of base stations have been employed in order to satis- fy the growing requirements. In October 2012, India had 736,654 mobile base stations out of which Delhi accounted for 21,992 base stations (Thomas 2012).

      In India, GSM(Global System for Mobile Communica- tion) and CDMA(Code Division Multiple Access) has been allocated a bandwidth of 900- 1800 MHz and 800MHz re- spectively(Telecom Spectrum Allocation in India 2010). These frequencies are non- thermal in nature but have severe effects on the birds navigational skills, behaviour, eggs hatching and reproductive capabilities. Since, birds are more susceptible towards the effects of these 5

      radiations, these act as biological indicators of environ- mental change. Hence, their disappearance renders us with the clues of the effects such changes on human beings. Tele- communications has a major role in the advancement of tech- nology, but its effects on the biodiversity are many. Accord-

      ing to a survey conducted by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) the population of these birds has dropped by 80% in Andhra Pradesh, India(Kumar 2013 ).

    2. Data from around the world

    According to IUCNs red data list, this bird is still a way too far from being considered as vulnerable due to its large number (that is, <10,000 mature individuals with a continu- ing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three genera- tions, or with a specified population structure)( Butchart & Symes 2012). This bird has been added to the Red list by the Britains Royal Society of Protection of Birds.The drop in the population of these birds is not a consequence of one single reason but many with electromagnetic radiation from the mo- bile phone base stations contributing to them as is evident from the studies conducted in Europe. In United Kingdom, the population has dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008 (House sparrow 2012). Since, it is not possible to demolish the mobile phone base stations but the proposed research is to put forward a possible solution to the problem by mitigating the problems associated with the existing technology.

  3. RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE AND INNOVA-

    TION

    A. Significance of the Research

    The research is significant to the society as the birds act as natural indicators of rapid environmental changes and hence, help in studying the effects on mankind. Also, new technology can be used to mitigate the problems posed by the current technology.

    The proposed research will benefit the society (human be- ings), the environment and the telecommunication industry. Since, it is a proven fact that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts affect human beings by causing sleep deprivation, headaches, irritation and in extreme cases can- cer. Following this, the effect on the environment are many as these electromagnetic radiations cause radiation pollution and therefore, affect wildlife as well. Hence, the proposed solutions in the following section will benefit each of the stakeholders.

    Furthermore, the research has previously been carried out by researchers in Europe in order to find out correlation be- tween the house sparrow population and the EMR, but this research is directed towards proposing an alternative solution to the current technological trends.

    1. Innovation

      The chosen topic is intended to propose an alternative so- lution to the existing telecommunication masts in the form of adopting more ecological approaches which are listed below:

      1. Use of underground cabling: As these birds build their nests on high altitudes, hence, the underground cabling will help them revive their nests on roof tops and hole in the trees. This technique will also save the birds from the radiations from the high voltage current carrying wires.

      2. Use of Optical fiber: Optical fiber can be a good solu- tion to the problem as fiber optic cable is capable of carrying signals to great distances with less attenuation. This technol- ogy can carry many signals at a time thereby supporting the notion of providing services to the increasing telecommunica- tion services.

      3. Decreasing the number of towers: By decreasing the number of towers along with the cabling methods mentioned above without affecting the quality of service, the problem can be mitigated. Furthermore, the proposed solutions have to be tested in a laboratory environment in order to track progress of the proposed research.

      4. Developing an entirely new technology that will revo- lutionise the face of telecommunications.

  4. RESEARCH METHODS

    This research will be conducted as a series of interviews of the local people and the people in the fields of environ- mental sciences and telecommunications which will be the first source of data collection and the second source of data collection will be the ethnographic field study in the Delhi region of India. In this research the data collected by the pre- vious researchers will also be analysed. In this research will be using different types of bird counting techniques to inves- tigate the population of house sparrows.

    Following are the methods which will be used to estimate the population of house sparrows:

    1. Point Count

      It is one of the basic count technique which is quite sim- ple and useful to detect the decline in the bird population, in basic count birds are counted in their breeding territories by seeing and heard. This will be the first method used also known as area search in which we will record the birds seen and heard in a particular area for a set period of time interval. A chain of point counts will be carried out through a definite path and then the readings will be compared to estimate the population of house sparrows. This method will provide us with an approximate value of birds population over a partic- ular region and also about their habitat. In this process we will locate the birds nesting area for detailed analysis of their habitat and their nestlings which is discussed in the next me- thod.

    2. Nest Recording

      This will be the second method that will be used in which we will measure the reproductive capability and success rate of house sparrows by investigating their nests. In nest record- ing we will select certain nests at a specific area and monitor the birds behaviour that how they select a site for nesting, record their hatching period, fledging period and also catch nest predators. We will install cameras to analyse the size of eggs, incubation period, the size of nestling and how the food source, quality and availability is, also we will be individual- ly analyse a particular nest to check the survival rate of the chicks and their life expectancy. In this process we will create a map of the birds nesting area, their density and record how their territories are distributed over a particular area.

    3. Capturing and tagging

      In this approach, we will capture birds by using a transpa- rent nylon net for individual analysis and record their weight, length and then tag them with a plastic band having a unique number so that they can be verified if recaptured. By this approach we will get an accurate estimation of birds popula- tion over a particular location and verify their survival rate and any reproductive changes.

    4. Interviews

    In this research we will be conducting interviews with few people in the field of ecology, environmental science ad people who are working in the conservation of House spar- rows. One of them will be Mohammed Dilawar an Indian conservationist and the founder of National Forest Society who has been quite active in the conservation of House Spar- rows and inducing awareness among the local people about these birds. We will interview them with a set of questions which are as follows:

    1. How the population of house sparrows has declined in the recent decade?

    2. What are the main causes of their decline?

    3. How urbanization and modern architecture have affected their habitat?

    4. How domination of other bird species such as pigeons have contributed in the decline of their population?

    After that we will be interviewing some of the local people and collect some information about the develop- ment of their local area by asking following set of ques- tions:

    1. What kind of developments they have observed in their local area?

    2. How many people in your house use mobile phones?

    3. How often they come to see a house sparrows?

    4. What they think is the cause of the disappearance of house sparrows?

    5. Whether they would like help in the conservation of these species?

    Finally we will be interviewing the people in the field of telecommunication and ask them following questions:

    1. How many base stations are there in a particular area?

    2. How many mobile phone towers have been installed in the recent decade?

    3. What is the frequency range of the mobile phone towers?

  5. CONCLUSION

This research seeks to evaluate the impact of Electromag- netic Radiation on house sparrows (Passer Domesticus) along with the proposition of a solution to the same. Other factors being identified for the birds dwindling population are urba- nization, modern architecture buildings with no place to build nests, use of unleaded petrol, and an excessive use of pesti- cides that kills insects on which their nestlings are fed upon. Electromagnetic radiation from the mobile phone base sta- tions in conjunction with these factors add up to the deprecia- tion in their population. Therefore, the purpose of this re- search is to develop a base so as to improve the technology used in Telecommunications to make it safer and eco- friendly. The research will examine the effects of EMR on house sparrows using the methods such as interviews of local people, environmentalists, and people from the telecommuni- cation department along with the ethnographic field study which will include the methods covered under section5.

Moreover, the progress will be measured from the proposed methods that is the field studies discussed and interviewing.

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  2. Balmori, A. 2005, 'Possible effects of electromagnetic fields from phone masts on a population White Stork(Ciconia ciconia)', Electro- magnetic biology and medicine, vol. 24, pp. 109- 19.

  3. Balmori, A. & Hallberg, Ö. 2007, 'The Urban Decline of the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): A Possible Link with Electromagnetic Radiation', Electromagnetic Biology & Medicine, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 141-51.

  4. Butchart, S., Symes, A. 2012, Passer Domesticus,

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  6. Everaert, J. & Bauwens, D. 2007, 'A possible effect of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone base stations on the number of breeding house sparrows (Passer domesticus)', Electromagn Biol Med, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 63-72.

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