Ganga river dolphins count rises to 33, up from 22 in 2015
The World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) along with the Uttar Pradesh forest department recently held a survey of Ganga River Dolphins and found that the dolphin population has increased from 22 in 2015 to 33 in 2018. The survey under the ‘My Ganga, My Dolphin’ programme was conducted from October 10-15 over a stretch of nearly 205km, spanning Bijnor barrage to Narora barrage along the river.
Officials said the 33 dolphins found during the survey included three calves and claimed that it indicated that the slow -breeding dolphins have flourished on the stretch and also indicates positive river health and biodiversity.
“The major dolphin population is found beyond Allahabad, Varanasi and Balia districts, besides a small population found between the two barrages in western UP. In the survey, we found 30 adults and three calves. This is an encouraging sign as dolphins are slow breeders but their population is increasing as they find sustainable environments and habitat,” Sanjeev Yadav, senior coordinator from WWF-India, said.
“These dolphins breed every two or three years. Finding three calves amongst a small population is encouraging. A normal dolphin here has a length of 1-1.5 metre. The two barrages are close and it is one of the pristine habitats and is rich in biodiversity,” he added.
The survey covered a 106.9km stretch from Bijnor to Garhmukteshwar, which is along the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary, and another 98km stretch from Garhmukteshwar to Narora which is a Ramsar site.
The Convention of Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and proper use of wetlands and resources. India became a party to the convention in February 1982. India has 26 sites designated Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites).
“The figures in the survey are encouraging as calves have been found, which means they are breeding. This is an indicator that the stretch is a suitable habitat for dolphins. Here, we also have a population of Ghariyals. We have ‘water schools’ run by WWF-India, to help sustain dolphins, and sensitise village residents. They now regard dolphins as a part of their ecosystem,” Lalit Verma, conservator of forests (Meerut), UP forest department, said.
Under the concept of ‘water schools,’ agencies have identified nearly 70 schools near the stretch and are sensitising students about the environment, biodiversity and the need to conserve the species.
The Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista Gangetica), or ‘Susu,’ is one of the two subspecies of the South Asian River Dolphin, the other being the Indus Dolphin ‘bhulan’ found in the Indus river in Pakistan, and Beas in India.
The four other freshwater dolphins in the world are the Amazon river dolphin ‘Boto’; Bolivian river dolphin; the Araguaian river Dolphin, and the Chinese Dolphin ,‘Baiji’, in China’s Yangtze river, which is reported to have been extinct since 2006.
The Ganges River Dolphin is also flagged as the ‘Tiger of the Ganges’, and is considered the mascot of a healthy aquatic environment and acts as an indicator species. According to officials, they are found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Recent population estimates in its entire distribution range recorded around 3,000 individuals. Out of this, more than 80% are within Indian territory.
The Bijnor to Narora Ramsar site is vital as it houses dolphins as well as ‘critically endangered’ Ghariyals. A programme for the reintroduction Ghariyals has been in place on the stretch since 2009.