A survey is underway since October 2016 in the River Ganges in Uttar Pradesh to ascertain the number of Ganges Dolphin. It is being carried out in two phases. One from Bijnor barrage to Narora, approx 225kms. And the second from Kanpur to Fatehpur about 175kms in length. So a total length of 400kms along the river Ganges is being surveyed.
Apparently the numbers of Ganges Dolphin have reduced over the decades due to lack of habitat. They are mostly affected by barrages, dams, pollution, and irrigation projects. A typical story of importance being given to economy over ecology. Ganges Dolphin lives in the most densely human-populated area of the world (Uttar Pradesh). Hence the immense pressure for survival and development is reason enough for Dolphins to be threatened.
Their total population is between 1200-1800 individuals, which is less than the wild Tigers in India. But the Tigers happen to get all the attention in the world to themselves. While millions are spent on their conservation, not even a fraction goes for the conservation of the Ganges Dolphins. There was a time when the Ganges Dolphins were found in large schools. Not any longer.
Just about 15 years back I was on a visit to a small town called Garh Mukteshwar on the banks of Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. This is located about 100kms from New Delhi. It is considered auspicious to take a dip in the holy waters at Garh Mukteshwar. While I was crossing the river to go to the other side which was more peaceful, I saw something just come up in the river and go down. Not knowing that one can expect Dolphins here, I curiously stayed focussed in the region, and there is a span of 15 seconds, she comes up again. My delight knew no bounds on having sighted the Ganges Dolphins.
On my next visit to this town which was about 5 years later, I again expected to see this beautiful sight, but no luck. I asked the locals, and they said that for the last 3 years even they had stopped seeing the Ganges Dolphins.
A new threat to the Ganges Dolphin
A new initiative just might be a death knell for the Ganges Dolphin. Our Government has come out with a unique plan to use the river’s waterways to transport goods. This will threaten the Ganges Dolphins. Unfortunately, not many rivers in India are big enough to transport goods. But the Ganges surely is, and hence it must pay the price for its grandness.
Even if the census shows a marginal increase in the Ganges Dolphin numbers it will be no reason to be happy as the waterways to transport goods will not be good news for the Ganges Dolphins. Why is it that man forgets that he inherited this planet with so many species to live with, but we don’t seem to be leaving a better planet for our next generation? Sad, but true.
Hope the Ganges Dolphin survives.
– Sharad Vats