Despite the receding Gangotri glacier, huge habitat loss and sewage problem, river Ganga has re-invented itself and is now home to about 2,500 dolphins, huge groups of birds like Greater Ajutant, Indian Scimiator and Sarus Crane.
Dr Ravindra Kumar Sinha of Patna University said, “These are positive signs for Ganga. Not many birds were spotted about a decade ago in the river but in the last two-three years, groups of these birds have been sighted in the plains of Ganga.”
The most remarkable revival has been of Gangetic dolphins, whose population had gone down to less than a thousand in early 1990s because of poaching. “Till 1996, no dolphin was sighted before Bijnore barrage. Then, fishermen were provided an alternative for dolphin oil and the situation improved in downstream of Ganga,” Sinha said.
Better water quality since 1980s and dolphins’ ability to evolve to the ecological changes in Ganga were cited as two major reasons for their survival. Earlier, dolphin deaths were reported because of noise pollution caused by motorised boats. “Now, one can see dolphins floating close to motorised boats,” Sinha said justifying that the dolphins have adjusted to technology in Ganga.
The Ganga basin is also home for tree-climbing deer, world’s largest venomous snake, the world’s smallest pig and the world’s tallest flying bird Sarus Crane. The Sunderbans in lower Gangetic plain is home to Royal Bengal Tiger, which according to the latest census has survived poaching threat.
The new life of Ganga will be telecast on Discovery Channel’s three part series --- India’s River of Life : Ganges – starting from October 24. Each part will deal with different aspect of the river.
The first comprehensive ecological survey of Ganga was done in 1879 by John Anderson. Then tigers, elephants, rhinos, reptiles and many other species of birds and animals were found.
Now, many of them like rhino has vanished but Ganga had attracted some new species like Greater Adjutant, which was remotely found in the Gangetic plains.
But, how much Ganga’s ecology has changed is not known as no comprehensive survey has been done since Independence. Now, the environment ministry is getting one such survey done.