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.
How ‘Project Dolphin’ will help?
- Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger. During the first meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC), headed by the Prime Minister, it was said that “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,” state the minutes of meeting.
- So far, the 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.
- 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.
Efforts to save ‘dolphin’ till now
The Gangetic dolphin remains listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
- 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, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while chairing the maiden meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority, declared the Gangetic river dolphin as the national aquatic animal. Now, the National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.