From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Project Dolphin
Mains level : NA
In his Independence Day Speech this year, PM has announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin. The proposed project is aimed at saving both river and marine dolphins.
- The Project will be on the lines of Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population.
- 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.
About Gangetic Dolphin
- The Gangetic river system is home to a vast variety of aquatic life, including the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
- It 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.
- 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.
Why is it important to save dolphins?
- The construction of dams and barrages and increasing pollution has led to a decline in the population of aquatic animals in the rivers in general and of dolphins in particular.
- Aquatic life is an indicator of the health of river ecosystems.
- As the Gangetic dolphin is at the top of the food chain, protecting the species and its habitat will ensure
Aquatic life as an indicator of the health of a river system
- Globally, there have been such examples. For instance, the Rhine Action Plan (1987) of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) brought back the salmon.
- The return of the migratory fish is taken as an indicator of the river’s improved health.
- Salmon used to migrate from the North Sea to the Rhine every year and reproduce, but this stopped when pollution increased in the river.
- After a chemical accident in 1986 that caused the death of fish and microorganisms, the Action Plan was launched.
- This led to an improvement in the quality of the river water, and the salmons began to return.
What has been done to save Gangetic dolphins so far?
- Although efforts to save them were started in the mid-1980s, the estimates suggest the numbers have not risen as a result.
- The Gangetic dolphin remains listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
- 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 so far
- The government has prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020.
- It identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations.
- On October 5, 2009, the then PM declared the Gangetic river dolphin as the national aquatic animal.
- A notification was issued by the MoEFCC the following year. Now, the National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.