BAREILLY: For the first time, the forest department, WWF-India and 23 other NGOs and community leaders will conduct a Gangetic dolphin census in the Ramganga river from October 5 to 8 this year. The forest department and other agencies had conducted the dolphin census in the Ganga and its tributaries (Yamuna, Son, Ken, Betwa, Ghagra and Gerua) in 2012, but not in the Ramganga. The census would be conducted in the 370-km stretch from Dabri Bridge to Hardoi-Kannauj border where the Ramganga merges with the Ganga.
"The Gangetic dolphins were found in the Ramganga about 50-60 years back, but later they have not been sighted due to degradation of river ecosystem. However, during a recent survey, locals informed us that they have spotted Gangetic dolphins in the Ramganga during monsoon and winter when the depth of the river is high. Hence, it was decided that dolphin census would be conducted in this river," said Suresh Babu, director — rivers, wetlands & water policy, WWF-India.
TOI had earlier reported that an ongoing research titled "Impact of seasonal variation and pollution load on aquatic environment and fish farming at micro level in different aquatic zones of river Ramganga" by Neelima Gupta of MJP Rohilkhand University stated that the river is most polluted in Bareilly and Moradabad, posing a serious threat to aquatic life. "As the river is less polluted beyond Bareilly, we have decided to conduct the dolphin census from Dabri Bridge (Shahjahanpur) to Terapursoli village in Hardoi, where the Ramganga merges with the Ganga. Gangetic dolphins prefer a depth of nearly four metres and clean water, and these features are found in this stretch," said AsgharNawab, senior manager, biodiversity, WWF-India.
Explaining the reasons that have reduced the dolphin population, Khem Bahadur, project officer, WWF-India, said deterioration of habitat, poaching and river pollution were the major factors behind the decline of the dolphin population.
Babu said, "Apart from conducting the census on dolphins, the plan involves conservation and restoration of the ecosystem. We will bring the dolphins back to its original habitat and also make the locals aware about the importance of conservation of dolphins."
Apart from the Ramganga, the Gangetic dolphin census will be carried out in 3,350-kilometre stretch of the Ganga and its tributaries that flow in the state. According to the 2012 census report on the Gangetic dolphin, there were 671 dolphins in the 2,800-km stretch of the Ganga and its tributaries (excluding the Ramganga).
"Besides, a new project titled 'Intervention of forestry in Ganga' is going to start next year. Under this, forest department along with locals will carry out a plantation drive in five-kilometre radius of river. The positive change in ecosystem, including rise in population of dolphins, will be visible in due course of time," said chief conservator of forest M P Singh.