The national aquatic animal of India, Ganges river dolphins, will soon have a community reserve dedicated to them in West Bengal.
West Bengal will soon have India’s first community reserve for dolphins. It is being set up with the view of protecting the endangered Ganges river dolphins.
Ganges dolphin was declared the national aquatic animal of India in 2010.
Often called ‘Tiger of the Ganges’, the river dolphin has the same position in a river ecosystem as a tiger in a forest, and their number is estimated to be less than 2,000. These mammals are named River dolphins because they cannot survive in salt water alone. They need freshwater too.
The Ganga stretch in West Bengal, also known as Hooghly, is about 500 km long and passes though Kolkata before meeting the Bay of Bengal in the Sundarbans. According to Chief Wildlife Warden, and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Azam Zaidi, this stretch is not within a forest or a sanctuary, and thus it is important to protect the dolphins in the region. The reserve will be set up in the Hooghly River, between the Malda and South 24 Paraganas districts. The final decision for the reserve was taken at a meeting of the State Wildlife Board.
“A committee is being formed to examine in what way the community reserve would be set up in the Hooghly River between Malda and Sundarbans. We’ll take all stakeholders together in this initiative. It is expected that it would be ready within a year’s time,” Azam Zaidi told PTI.
He added that Wildlife Protection Act has provisions for creation of such reserves to protect the flora and fauna in an area. With this reserve, the board also wants to spread awareness about dolphins being endangered, to control noise pollution in the area, and to have cleaner water. Currently, dolphins are being affected because of the construction of dams and barrages, increased fishing and pollution in the river.
According to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) factsheet, the Ganges River dolphins are found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.