Action group formed to enforce Chinese manja ban in Bengaluru

The synthetic kite thread continues to be sold with no let or hindrance. NGOs have untangled 1,340 birds from manja so far this year

An ARRC volunteer rescued a bird caught in the Chinese Manja dangling from a tree in Ulsoor recently.

Animal welfare NGOs and volunteers in Bengaluru have formed an action group to enforce a ban on Chinese manja, synthetic thread that’s popularly used for kite-flying.

It’s called Manja Action group.

The group is concerned about the availability of the Chinese manja in Bengaluru despite the National Green Tribunal ruling of 2017, which banned its manufacturing, stocking and sale, and made it a punishable offence. Kite lovers prefer it over the cotton thread because it’s much cheaper and sturdier.

A PFA volunteer and a policeman rescue
a crow during an operation in Tilaknagar.

The action group has launched #Stranglehold, an online petition that’s clocked about 25,000 signatories since it went live in July. It proposes forming a joint action force, with officials from the forest department, BBMP, pollution control board, city police and citizens. Its aim is to identify factories making the banned manja and shops selling them, report defaulters, and sensitise Bengalureans against buying it.

The campaigners have sent representations to top authorities but haven’t received a response yet, they told Metrolife. Next, they want to meet the home secretary to discuss the government’s apathy that is maiming birds, informs Col Dr Navaz Shariff of People For Animals (PFA), Sunkalpalya. “When the Chinese manja ban can be strictly implemented in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, why not in Karnataka?” asks Dr Navaz, general manager and chief veterinarian of the wildlife hospital and conservation centre.

Meanwhile, the group has been investigating how the Chinese manja continues to ply. A member of Horamavu-located Avian and Reptile Rehabilitation Centre (ARRC) says the factories claim they “make it for industrial uses” and so, they can’t be pulled up. These threads thrive on online platforms in a similar way. “The websites may not sell the Chinese kite manja but often in the recommendation scroll, you’ll find kites grouped with synthetic threads that are used to make jewellery,” the ARRC member says. A leading Indian e-commerce site took down two nylon manjas after Metrolife brought it to their notice.

Lesser calls this month

City helplines get the highest number of manja-related bird rescue calls in October. A majority of the calls concern the black kites because it’s the beginning of their breeding season.

The calls have come down this time but that’s not much to cheer about.

The count is lesser than the preceding months but it is higher than the pre-pandemic level, the ARRC member explains. ARRC has got 186 such calls this month as opposed to 447 in June, 543 in
July, 442 in August, and 299 in September.

“The calls have come down because people have resumed office and school. They aren’t flying kites (as much as they used to during the pandemic). So the calls haven’t come down for the right reasons,” says an activist anonymously.

What is the group demanding?

Stricter enforcement of the ban.

Compensation for people hurt by manja accidents.

Insurance for bird rescuers.

Helpline to report manja offences.

Certify and publicise shops selling biodegradable, cotton manja.

Designate safe kite-flying areas in each district.

Numbers for bird rescue

Avian and Reptile Rehabilitation Centre, Horamavu: 94496 42222

People For Animals, Sunkalpalya: 99000 25370

Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Bannerghatta: 99015 10394

Forest official speaks

According to a 2016 notification, forest officials, officers from the forest and horticulture departments of the BBMP, and environmental officers from the state pollution control board can enforce the ban and initiate legal action.

Ravishankar S S, deputy conservator of forests, Bengaluru Urban, told Metrolife, “My staff had recently gone to shops to search for the banned manja but they found nothing. These aren’t being sold as openly as they used to a few years ago. Also, if we go for inquiry every day, shopkeepers may feel we are harassing them.”

An ARRC member says, “The Chinese manja is sold a lot during this time but these shops are now selling festival items instead. Could it be because of the raids, or because people have gone back to work? We don’t know. But Sankranthi is coming up and we will get the true picture then.” 

‘We got 15-20 calls daily’

Before the pandemic, PFA would get two to three calls for bird rescue a day. During and after the second lockdown, just the manja-related calls shot up to 15 and more daily. ARRC was receiving up to 20 cases per day in the same period.

So far, PFA, ARRC and Wildlife Rescue And Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) in the city have conducted more than 1,340 rescues for birds that got trapped in the Chinese manja this year.

Highlighting another worrying trend, Subiksha Venkatesh, rescue manager at ARRC, said, “Earlier, mostly kites and crows would get trapped because of their abundance and size. But this year, we also rescued small mynahs, barbets and wood owls. Even, a water bird.”

Dr Roopa Satish, senior veterinarian at WRRC, fears the unreported incidents are much higher. “People can spot big kites and call us up for rescue. But smaller birds like koel and barbets go unsighted and they can die in 10 minutes. Squirrels, monkeys and tree-dwelling loris also get injured because of the manjas (lingering) on the trees,” she says.