A dolphin is seen dead on the shore of a beach in Lambayeque, Peru. At least 17 dolphins were found dead, suspected of being hunted on by fishermen, according to veterinarian Carlos Yaipen of the Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals (ORCA). (Reuters)
The major habitats of aquatic life in the Ganga, Yamuna and Ghagra rivers in Uttar Pradesh are critically degrading, a survey by the state Forest Department and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) India has revealed.
The rivers would soon be devoid of biological life if urgent steps are not taken by the government to restore the dying state of its rivers, the report warns.
"There is an urgent need to revive these rivers. Industries are polluting these rivers and wildlife has disappeared from these rivers," said Rook De, chief conservator, wildlife, in Lucknow.
The survey conducted jointly by the forest department and WWF India, primarily to count dolphins in various river systems and their distribution Oct 5-7 last year, found that the Ghagra river between Sitapur and Mau districts, the Yamuna between Pachnada in Etawah and Allahabad and the Ganga between Kanpur and Allahabad are critically losing their life-supporting systems owing to excessive, uncontrolled mining and fishing.
The study attributes the current degrading life systems in these rivers to complete neglect and lack of intervention by the government and its agencies entrusted with the task.
According to field workers engaged in the dolphin count survey, the Ganga between Kanpur and Allahabad has completely lost the breeding population of dolphins, with only some unhealthy, adults left in the river.
The Yamuna between Etawah and Allahabad has just about 40 dolphins, as against nearly 70 in the late 1980s.
Dr. Sandeep Behera, associate director (river basins and biodiversity), WWF-India, said: "Eighteen different teams surveyed 2,800 km of various river systems in Uttar Pradesh. We counted 671 dolphins though we were expecting a higher number."
"While the habitats and the dolphins and other species like fish, turtles and crocodiles are stable at some places, they are critically declining at some places in the major rivers. This is a big cause of concern as the natural systems are fast vanishing," Behera said.
Of the 671 dolphins, the Ganga has the highest number at 261 while the Ghaghra has 231. The Chambal river has 85 dolphins and Geruwa, 39. The Saryu and Rapti rivers have 16 and each dolphins each. The Yamuna has just 31 dolphins.
The surveying teams employed the 'line transect float down' technique, in which four observers in a boat ferried at 10 kmph, double the swimming speed of dolphins (4.75 kmph). This is done to avoid double count.
Observers travel about 150 metres during which they count the number of dolphins, which somersault at a particular place every three minutes.
To tackle the situation, the forest department and WWF preparing a Combined River Conservation Plan which would be submitted to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav within two months, forest officials said.