This is in response to a letter about vultures titled 'Useful friends of society' published in these columns on February 13, 2009. While I appreciate WWF's concern for vultures, I would like to draw their attention to a great imbalance that has occurred in Lahore's bird population. Crows and kites have procreated in abundance while the house sparrow has virtually vanished. We do not hear its familiar chirp at dawn and dusk nor do we see it anywhere. This bird is usually a familiar sight wherever man is present, be it towns, villages or countryside. It breeds mainly in roofs and holes in buildings, often in colonies. Equally at home in city centres and farmland, it is never far from man. House sparrows are indicators of the environment and such large decline in their numbers indicates that there is something seriously wrong with the environment we are living in. Many reasons may have contributed to the decline of the house sparrows like increasing use of pesticides, lack of insect food, lack of nesting sites, lack of food grains in the open and the electromagnetic waves from mobile towers. In Pakistan indiscriminate poaching to provide for the 'chirda shops' may also be another reason. I would request the society at large to kindly help save a great friend and a symbol of our culture and folklore by taking some simple, affordable, measures. -KHURAM KHAN, Lahore, via e-mail, February 13.