5 September 2020.
In his Independence Day Speech this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin. The proposed project is aimed at saving both river and marine dolphins.
What will Project Dolphin do?
- Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger.
- This initiative got in-principle approval in December last year itself, at the first meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC), headed by the Prime Minister.
- Special Conservation program needs to be taken up for Gangetic Dolphin which is national aquatic animal and also indicator species for the river Ganga spread over several states.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which implements the government’s flagship scheme Namami Gange, has been taking some initiatives for saving dolphins.
- Now, Project Dolphin is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
What is the Gangetic dolphin?
- The Gangetic river system is home to a vast variety of aquatic life, including the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
- The Gangetic dolphin is one of five species of river dolphin found around the world.
- It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems.
- According to the Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin, 2010-2020, describes male dolphins as being about 2-2.2 metres long and females as a little longer at 2.4-2.6 m.
- An adult dolphin could weigh between 70 kg and 90 kg.
- The breeding season of the Gangetic dolphin extends from January to June. They feed on several species of fishes, invertebrates etc.
Why is it important to save dolphins?
- Aquatic life is an indicator of the health of river ecosystems. As the Gangetic dolphin is at the top of the food chain, protecting the species and its habitat will ensure conservation of aquatic lives of the river.
- The construction of dams and barrages, and increasing pollution have led to a decline in the population of aquatic animals in the rivers in general and of dolphins in particular.
How many Gangetic dolphins remain?
- Gangetic dolphin population in India could be about 2,500-3,000.
- However, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Babul Supriyo had told Lok Sabha last year that there were about 1,272 dolphins in Uttar Pradesh and 962 in Assam.
- Increasing pollution in the Ganga has brought down the number over the years.
What has been done to save Gangetic dolphins so far?
WILDLIFE ACT PROTECTION: After the launch of Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government on November 24, 1986 included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972. This was aimed at checking hunting and providing conservation facilities such as wildlife sanctuaries. For instance, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.
CONSERVATION PLAN: The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020, which “identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations”.
NATIONAL AQUATIC ANIMAL:
- On October 5, 2009, in the maiden meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority, Gangetic river dolphin was declared as the national aquatic animal.
- The National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.