The dolphin population in the Ganges river has declined by nearly 10-15 per cent per year, taking the number from 6,000 in 1982 to less than 1,800 this year, said World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday.
“The reason is construction of dams and water pollution caused by pesticides and fertilisers more than industrial effluents,” said Sandeep Behara, associate director, river basins and diversity programme, WWF, India.
The Ganges river dolphin was declared India’s National Aquatic Animal in 2009 and since these are fresh water dolphins they cannot survive in a polluted environment.
WWF India is launching a three-day awareness programme ‘My Ganga, My Dolphin’ campaign in and around Uttar Pradesh from October 5 to 7 to survey the number of Gangetic river dolphins present across 2,800 km stretch of the River Ganga and its tributaries including Yamuna, Son, Ken, Betwa, Ghagra and Geruwa.
During the campaign, a team of 150 members will go around in 18 boats to determine the number of dolphins which will be announced by Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh chief minister on October 7.
Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF, India said the threatened ecosystem is posing a danger to the existence of fresh water dolphins in the country.
“Their evolution dates back to 400 million years. All difficulties are largely man-made which are making the species die every year,” he said.
He added that the forest department does not have adequate manpower and modern equipment to conduct surveys and take corrective measures.
“The three-day campaign is our first effort which we plan to take forward to other parts of the country where we have spotted dolphins. We would like to make this exercise work for every three years so that at the end of nine years we have a comprehensive study on the number of dolphins in India,” said Singh.
Dolphins have been listed in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and categorised as endangered by the World Conservation Union.
“In India, everything is still largely on paper since 2010. A lot needs to be done to save the species which will be possible with only community participation,” said Beheria.
“Another threat to dolphins is that they are being caught by mistake in nylon nets which are being used by fishermen which lead to their death,” Beheria added.
He said that locals in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan know more about Dolphins than anybody else does but they need to
be warned about the danger and conservation of the species.