Conservation of river dolphins: Specialists pitch for trans-boundary fee

Ravi S Singh

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 25

Experts have pitched for a trans-boundary commission between India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar to conserve river dolphins.

The pitch was made during a virtual function held here to celebrate ‘International Freshwater Dolphin Day’. The function was organised under the auspices of ‘Namami Gange’.

The function was marked by a webinar on ‘enhancing conservation of  river dolphins’. It was attended by experts including from the four countries.

The function was originally schedule for October 24, but was postponed as it coincided with festivities and holidays in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.

The experts discussed about presence of three types of river dolphins in India – Gangetic Dolphin in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin; Irrawaddy Dolphin in Sunderban, Odisha, etc.; and Indus Valley Dolphin in Beas (Punjab).

“Building inter-governmental networking among India-Bangladesh-Nepal and Myanmar for dolphin conservation is needed,” said Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

Explaining the  uniqueness of freshwater dolphins which are found only in Asian rivers and a few South American rivers, Mishra proposed four main focus areas on dolphin   conservation. These are techno-scientific aspects, capacity building, community involvement and policy interventions.

The discussion concluded with robust 12-point suggestions, which included hydrological restoration from pollution, dolphin watch protocol to be developed for tourism and creation of sanctuaries.

BK Das, Director, ICAR-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) shared an update on the initiatives like “Ganga Utsav” and river  ranching program started under the aegis of the NMCG to engage communities not just in dolphin conservation but overall river rejuvenation and environment protection.

Dilip Kumar, former Vice-Chancellor, CIFE-Mumbai, said: “Communities are part of the problem so they need to be involved in the solution also.”

Dr JK Jena, Deputy Director General (Fisheries Science), ICAR, said: “Not only dolphins but many other aquatic animals are endangered and the situation is similar in almost all south Asian countries.”

“Therefore, it is important for countries to join hands in conservation efforts,” said Dr Jena.

The focus on conserving a river dolphin, which is an engendered species, is in the context of Union Government’s push for saving them from extinction through ‘Project Dolphin’.

Also, in this context, the government has declared dolphin as national aquatic animal.

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