On the 74th Independence day 2020, PM Modi announced the launch of Project Dolphin to boost the conservation of both river and sea dolphins in India. Later on 17th August 2020, Union Environment Minister Shri Prakash Javadekar announced that Project Dolphin will be launched within 15 days.
Ganga River Dolphin
- According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 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.
- The Ganges river dolphin is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
- In India, it is found across seven states namely, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal and is commonly known as ‘Susu’.
- 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 is among the four freshwater dolphins in the world- the other Three are:
- The ‘Baiji’ now likely extinct from the Yangtze River in China,
- The ‘Bhulan’ of the Indus in Pakistan, and
- The ‘Boto’ of the Amazon River in Latin America.
Present Conservation Status:
- The species is listed endangered by the IUCN and is placed in Schedule I in the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- It is also listed on CITES Appendix-I.
- On 5th October 2009, the Ganga River Dolphin have been formally adopted as the National Aquatic Animal.
- They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.
- Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district is India’s only sanctuary for its national aquatic animal.
- Setting up of the Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin (2010-2020).
Need for Project Dolphin
- Often known as the Tiger of the Ganga the river dolphin is an indicator animal and has the same position in a river ecosystem as a tiger in a forest. The presence of the species indicates a healthy river ecosystem.
- The Ganges river dolphin is still hunted for meat and oil, both used medicinally.
- The population of dolphin in 1982 was estimated to be between 4000-5000 in India. As per official figures, there are about 3,700 Gangetic river dolphins in the Indian river systems (Source).
- Their numbers have dwindled mainly because of direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages and indiscriminate fishing.
Project Dolphin will focus on both types of dolphins living in the rivers and in the seas. This will also give a boost to biodiversity and create employment opportunities.
- It involves conservation of Dolphins and the aquatic habitat through the use of modern technology—specially in enumeration and anti-poaching activities.
- It will engage the fishermen and other rivers and ocean dependent population, and will strive for improving the livelihood of the local communities.
The conservation of Dolphin will also envisage activities which will also help in the mitigation of pollution in rivers and the oceans