Dolphin number dips in Chambal river, experts raise concern
The latest census report prepared by the Madhya Pradesh forest department says that dolphins’ number in Chambal river has been reduced by 13 per cent in four years.
There are just 68 dolphins left in 435-kilometre-long Chambal river sanctuary which passes through three states (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan), according to the latest census report of Madhya Pradesh forest department. The report came out in last week of June.
According to the census report, dolphins’ number in Chambal river has been reduced by 13 per cent in four years. The decreasing trend is continuing from 2016 when there were 78 dolphins.
In 2006, the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) ordered a ban on mining in the sanctuary area to save the flora and fauna of the river. “But illegal sand mining and consumption of water is so rampant that it is putting the whole ecosystem of the river in danger,” said Jyoti Dandotiya, chief scientist of the Deori Gharial Eco-park in Chambal sanctuary in Morena.
Principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), wildlife, SK Mandal said, “The decrease in number of dolphins is a matter of concern but Chambal is a lifeline for three states and the locals of MP, UP and Rajasthan are withdrawing water daily. Similarly, illegal sand mining is rampant in Bhind and Morena in MP and Dholpur in Rajasthan. Forest teams face so many life threatening attacks while taking actions against illegal sand mafia. Forest team needs support of locals, which they never get.”
“Dolphin is a sensitive animal and we didn’t find many studies so we roped in a team of experts including scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to do a research for safeguarding and increasing the population of dolphins in Chambal,” he added.
Experts raised concerns on the decreasing number of the national aquatic animal.
Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, scientist Qamar Qureshi, who is doing a research on dolphins in Chambal, said, “The maximum carrying capacity of dolphins in Chambal is 125. It’s a rare species of dolphins - platanista gangetica - and has been declared endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It requires at least 3 metre depth and 266.42-289.67 m3 per sec flow of water for sustainable habitat.”
“But perennial problems like illegal extraction of sand from the river bed and water withdrawal projects in Morena, Dholpur and Kota are disturbing the whole ecosystem of the river and decreasing the water level and flow. It needs to be addressed properly to save the dolphins as well as ghariyal,” he added.
Qureshi said, “With research on what is their favourable environment, we are also doing research to know about their communication system. There is lot to know about this species. It has rudimentary eyes. From preying to surfing, dolphins do it through ultrasonic sound. Now, the research has come to a halt due to Covid-19. We would resume it once this pandemic is over to know more about dolphins.”
“The dolphins were spotted for the first time in 1985 in Chambal river near Etawah. That time, the number was more than 110 but poaching reduced the number. Now poaching is not at all a problem but unfavourable habitat is. Not only dolphins, but population of ghariyals has also been affected,” said Dandotiya.