River dolphins getting a new lease of life

The Hindu , Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Correspondent : PTI
Narora (U.P.): Religious leaders and locals of this sleepy town are doing their bit to save the endangered fresh water dolphins found in the river Ganga.

Their efforts are bearing fruits as in the 165 km stretch of the Upper Ganga between Bijnor and Narora, the number of the endangered aquatic species is on the increase.

In 1993-94, the number of the dolphins (Platanista Gangetica) in this stretch was just 20. However, with the intervention of the community and with help from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) experts, the count has doubled to around 40, including calves.

Sandeep Behera, freshwater programme coordinator from WWF calls the efforts an excellent example of community participation in aquatic species conservation.

Locals of Karnawas villagers have set up a sewage treatment plant to ensure that dirty water does not pollute the river and in turn wipe-out dolphins, Mr. Behera said.

“At least 85 families of the village are using this treatment plant. We will soon set up another such plant, again without the help of government,” adds Himanshu Sharma, a local and volunteer with WWF.

Fishing activities are banned and so is mining.

“In fact now farmers have stopped using chemical fertilisers and instead started using eco-friendly manure cow-dung on the agricultural land situated on the banks of the river,” Mr. Sharma says.

In yet another eco-friendly measure, farmers are being encouraged to set up vermi-composting units. Polythene is collected and then burnt at a safer place lest it choke the river, the activist adds.

However, Mr. Behera stresses on efforts for long-term survival of the dolphins. “If not poaching then declining water level will take a toll on the conservation efforts,” he says.

River dolphins being deep water pool swimmers and hunters are facing the threat of extinction as the water level in the Ganga if falling due to siltation.

“Also, due to damming of the river, less quantity of water is being released from Tehri dam. The species are depending only on water from Ramganga river which is being released to meet the nearby Narora nuclear power plant,” Mr. Behera says.

The dolphin which is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and the Convention on Migratory Species can grow as large as 2.7m in length and weighs up to 90kg having life span of around 30 years.

The Ganges River Dolphin is among the four “obligate” freshwater dolphins found in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river in China, the Indus river in Pakistan and Amazon river in Latin America. -- PTI

SOURCE : Tuesday, 18 November 2008

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