The Union environment ministry has designated October 5 as the National Dolphin Day, to be celebrated annually starting this year. The decision to designate a National Dolphin Day was taken by the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) on Friday according to a statement by the environment ministry.
Bhupender Yadav, environment minister said generating awareness and community participation is integral for the conservation of dolphins including the Gangetic Dolphin. Environmental experts said the ministry should focus on improving the flow and water quality in Ganga and its tributaries to ensure bringing back the Gangetic dolphin from the brink.
“Healthy aquatic ecosystems help in maintaining the overall health of the Planet. Dolphins act as ideal ecological indicators of a healthy aquatic ecosystem and conservation of the dolphins will, therefore, benefit the survival of the species and also, the people dependent on the aquatic system for their livelihood. The Ministry has been taking up several activities for the protection and conservation of Dolphins and its habitats. Considering that generating awareness amongst the people on the benefits of conservation of dolphins and participation of people in conservation efforts is imperative, the standing committee recommended that every year 5th of October shall be celebrated as National Dolphin Day,” the statement said.
The standing committee also considered 46 proposals for wildlife clearance and recommended several projects such as providing electricity in remote villages in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, and drinking water supply near a protected area in Karnataka. Projects of strategic importance such as road and border outposts in Ladakh were also recommended during the meeting, according to the ministry. Proposals for construction of earthen dams in Haryana for irrigation; a road project under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in Uttarakhand; a project for harnessing geothermal energy for power generation and other direct heat applications by drilling through rocks overlying the geothermal reservoir in Ladakh were also recommended by NBWL.
“It is true that dolphins need community conservation. They also need a minimum flow in the river and less underwater and overwater noise. River projects like waterways or even river interlinking need to take dolphins into mind. India is as important for the Ganges river dolphins as it is for the tiger- most of the global population is here. A day is a good step but the real work will be in letting rivers flow with clean water and saying no to projects that break up rivers,” said Neha Sinha, conservation biologist and author.
The Gangetic dolphin is an indicator species, whose status provides information on the overall condition of the ecosystem and of other species in that ecosystem, for the Ganga ecosystem and is extremely vulnerable to changes in water quality and flow. It is categorised as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.
A WWF-India and the Uttar Pradesh forest department assessment in 2012 and 2015 recorded 1,272 dolphins in the Ganga, Yamuna, Chambal, Ken, Betwa, Son, Sharda, Geruwa, Gahagra, Gandak and Rapti.
“Due to multiple threats, including pollution, water diversion, habitat fragmentation, and bycatch, the Ganges river dolphin is seriously threatened. Several major infrastructure projects within its region will impose a real risk for catastrophic population decline in the future,” states the US based National Marine Mammal Foundation.
The government through the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and Jal Shakti ministry has started a programme of interlink rivers. NWDA has identified 30 such linking projects. The government has prepared detailed project reports for the Ken-Betwa link, the Daman Ganga-Pinjal link, and the Par-Tapi-Narmada link.