Why in news?
The National Ganga Council (NGC), which is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for the first time at Kanpur on Saturday with the proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin. There was an expectation that at the meeting a programme called “Project Dolphin”, along the lines of “Project Tiger” would be cleared to enhance the population of these dolphins.
What is status of the status of Gangetic dolphins in India?
The Gangetic river dolphins were officially discovered in 1801 and are one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
They once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, but are now mostly extinct from many of its early distribution ranges, as per WWF.
In 2009, the Gangetic dolphins were declared India’s National Aquatic animal by National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
it is placed under the “endangered” category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Nature and Habitat
The Gangetic river dolphins can only live in freshwater, are blind and catch their prey in a unique manner, using ultrasonic sound waves. These dolphins prefer deep waters and, as per WWF, they are distributed across seven states in India: Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades mainly because of direct killing, pollution, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing. Silting and sand lifting from rivers also affect their population.
What is population of Gangetic dolphins in India?
According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, at last count, the rivers of Assam and Uttar Pradesh had 962 and 1,275 Gangetic dolphins, respectively. As per WWF estimates, they number somewhere between 1200-1800.
What are some of the efforts made in India to protect the dolphins?
Some of the efforts made to preserve and increase the numbers of these dolphins include the setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020), which has identified threats to Gangetic dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations.
Additionally, the Gangetic dolphins have been included in Schedule -I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which means they have the highest degree of protection against hunting. They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.