Bihar to develop dolphin sites

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Alarmed by a rapid decline in the population of dolphins, the Bihar State in India plans to develop special sites along the Ganges River to protect them. Officials identified pollution and poaching as major factors behind the fall in the number of river dolphins.

The rapidly shrinking Ganges and the river’s changing course were also threatening the dolphins, they said.

RK Sinha, who heads the central government’s dolphin conservation project, warned the dolphins would disappear unless urgent steps were taken to clean up the Ganges.

Bashir Ahmad Khan, Bihar’s principal chief conservator of forest, said the dolphin protection sites to be set up under a central government conservation programme would also become tourist attractions.

Bihar’s departments of forest and environment and tourism had started identifying such sites. “We will soon send a proposal to the central forest and environment department for approval as well as for funds,” Khan told IANS.

According to researchers, India’s river dolphin population is estimated to be a little over 1,500. Half of these are found in the Ganges in Bihar but their numbers have dropped drastically over the past few decades.

The dolphins are often killed for their skin and oil. Fishermen also kill them to use their fat to prepare fish bait.

Untreated sewage, rotting carcasses and industrial effluents that find their way into the Ganges during its 2,500-km journey across several states from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal have also affected the dolphins.

In the 1980s, the Gangetic delta zone alone had around 3,500 dolphins.

Nearly a decade ago a dolphin sanctuary was set up on the Ganges at Kahalgaon near Bhagalpur. This is Asia’s only fresh water dolphin sanctuary, spread over an area of 50 km.

In 1996, freshwater dolphins were categorised as endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a forum of conservationists, NGOs and government agencies.

Despite an order issued by the Patna High Court in 2001 that asked the state government to check poaching, three dolphins were reportedly killed last year.

Source: Times of India