Why India needs a Project Dolphin
Ecology and Environment
26th Dec, 2019
The government is planning to launch a programme called “Project Dolphin”, along the lines of “Project Tiger” to enhance the population of these dolphins.
About the Gangetic river dolphin
- The Gangetic river dolphins can only live in freshwater, are blind and catch their prey in a unique manner, using ultrasonic sound waves.
- The Gangetic river dolphins were officially discovered in 1801 and are one of the oldest creatures in the world along with some species of turtles, crocodiles and sharks, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
- They once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, but are now mostly extinct from many of its early distribution ranges, as per WWF.
- In 2009, the Gangetic dolphin was declared India’s National Aquatic animal. Gangetic dolphin has been notified by the Assam as the state aquatic animal too.
- It is placed under the “endangered” category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- They are distributed across seven states in India: Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- Their numbers have dwindled in the last few decades mainly because of direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing.
Efforts made in India to protect the dolphins?
- Setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020), which has identified threats to Gangetic dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on dolphin populations.
- Gangetic dolphins have been included in Schedule -I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which means they have the highest degree of protection against hunting.
- They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.
Threats to Gangetic river dolphin
Pollution: It faces a number of threats such as dumping of single-use plastics in water bodies, industrial pollution, and fishing.
Restrictive Flow of Water: The increase in the number of barrages and dams is also affecting their growth as such structures impede the flow of water.
Poaching: Dolphins are also poached for their flesh, fat, and oil, which is used as a prey to catch fish, as an ointment and as a supposed aphrodisiac.
Shipping & Dredging: It is also called a blind dolphin because it doesn’t have an eye lens and uses echolocation to navigate and hunt.
- Its aim is to protect tigers from extinction by ensuring a viable population in their natural habitats.
- The project was launched in Jim Corbett National Park of Uttarakhand in 1973.
- India has more than 80 national parks and 441 Sanctuaries of which some have been declared as Tiger reserves.
- Tiger reserves are governed by the Project Tiger (1973).
- It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
- It is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.