The National Ganga Council is set to meet for the first time at Kanpur with a proposal to save and enhance the population of the Gangetic Dolphin to discuss the concept of ‘River Cities’ and an action plan to provide sewer connection to every household in towns along the Ganga and its tributaries.
National Ganga Council-
- National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection, and Management of River Ganga is an authority created in October 2016 under the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection, and Management) Authorities Order, 2016.
- It dissolved the National Ganga River Basin Authority.
- National Ganga Council has been established as an authority and National Mission for Clean Ganga has also been converted into an authority.
- The National Ganga Council comprises the chief ministers of 5 states along the Ganga — Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Jharkhand — along with nine Union ministers and NITI Aayog vice-chairman and headed by Prime Minister of India.
- It has been tasked with the “protection, prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in River Ganga and its rejuvenation to its natural and pristine condition and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water”.
- The council has to meet once a year
- But not a single meeting has taken place since its inception.
- Under the River Dolphin project, WWF- India works on three species of Dolphins, namely- Ganges River Dolphin (in the Ganga River and its tributaries), Indus River Dolphin (In the River Beas, Punjab) and Irrawaddy Dolphin (in Chilika Lake, Orissa).
- The Conservation of the Ganges River dolphin has been prepared under the auspices of the National Ganga River Basin Authority.
- Developing a comprehensive program to conserve river dolphins in Ganga is required for the following reasons-
- India is the last stronghold with extant populations in the Ganges-Brahmaputra River Systems. The species is in peril in Nepal and Bangladesh.
- It is an excellent indicator of riverine ecosystem health.
- As a signatory to numerous international conventions, India must fulfill its treaty obligations to aid in the conservation of this species.
- The species has recently been declared the ‘National Aquatic Animal’ by the Government of India and is part of our national heritage.
Threats to the Gangetic Dolphin-
- Poaching- Accidental killing in fishing nets, as well as direct killing by the fishermen to reduce competition, affects dolphin populations.
- Demand for Dol[phin oil and their meat create an incentive for poaching and a disincentive to dolphin conservation.
- Construction- Development of hydroelectric power and irrigation in the Ganges River system has prevented dolphin migration and has led to the segregation of populations.
- Riverine resource extraction- Excess extraction of the river water for irrigation has lowered water levels throughout the species range and has threatened a suitable habitat in the Ganges.
- River Traffic- Increasingly heavy river traffic in the Ganges may result in habitat restriction, noise pollution, depletion of prey base and changes in feeding behavior of the Dolphin in the rivers.
- Sedimentation- Due to loss of vegetation cover in the catchment area and in floodplains, the increasing rates of sedimentation cause a rise of the river bed, reducing the river's water-retaining capacity.
- Pollution- The effects of pollutants such as fertilizer and pesticide residues, industrial and domestic effluents may be harmful to dolphin populations.
About Ganga River Dolphin-
- Gangetic river dolphin (scientific name: Platanista gangetica) is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world.
- The other three are found in the Yangtze River, Indus river in Pakistan and Amazon river. Gangetic river dolphin species are found in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
- Gangetic Dolphins are the only surviving freshwater dolphin in India.
- The Ganges dolphin is an indicator species for the river ecosystem and is at the apex of the food chain.
- Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and have been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Government’s Initiatives for the conservation of Dolphin-
- National Aquatic Animal- Declared the Ganges River Dolphin as National Aquatic Animal on 10th May 2010 as recommended in the first meeting of NGRBA.
- Action plan- A working group was formed to prepare a conservation action plan for the Gangetic River Dolphin.
- An action plan implementation Advisory Committee.
- Awareness Program- Dolphin Awareness Program (Phase - I) has been completed. Further strengthening of networking is being taken up in Phase- II with NGOs, schools, and teachers in Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins.
- Minimizing threats- In the upper Ganga, a 164 km stretch of dolphin habitat is under monitoring to minimize potential threats.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in its efforts of biodiversity conservation in Ganga River basin has been working further on the Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Action Plan and has taken up steps to coordinate with various institutions to:
- build capacity for Ganga River Dolphin Conservation and Management;
- minimize fisheries interface and incidental capture of Ganga River
- restore river dolphin habitats by minimizing and mitigating the impacts of developmental projects;
- involve communities and stakeholders for sustainable efforts in Ganga River
- Dolphin conservation;
- educate and create awareness and
- Set off targeted research.
Also read: Annual Ganges River Dolphin Census Begins