Patna, 19 July 2018:
Bihar government has recently commissioned a population estimation survey of the Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica ganegtica) – declared as National Aquatic Animal in 2009, in about 1000 km river stretch of the Ganga and its two major tributaries in Bihar – the Gandak and Ghaghra. Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has partnered with the state government to conduct the exercise in both the tributaries.
“The survey is not restricted to the population estimation of Ganges dolphin only, but also to take a stock of other key fauna and threats operational in the rivers”, said Dr Samir Kumar Sinha, Head of the Species Recovery Division at WTI. “The exercise will help in identifying the areas crucial for dolphin and other aquatic species to take appropriate conservation measures. We will conduct the field work as soon as the monsoon is over in the region”, said Dr Sinha who is coordinating the exercise.
For the first time, the Environment and Forest department of Bihar has commissioned such a survey. Bihar holds importance in river dolphin conservation by supporting about one-third of the total population of about 3500 in its distribution range i.e. the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna and Sangu–Karnaphuli River systems in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
The Ganges dolphin is an indicator of the health of the rivers it inhabits. “Rejuvenating rivers is critically urgent now. We have to keep monitoring them and updating knowledge of the vital status and organ systems in our rivers in Bihar – the Ganga, Gandak, Ghaghra, Kosi, Mahananda and others”, informed Bharat Jyoti, Chief Wildlife Warden of Bihar.
The rivers and its biodiversity in the Ganges River System face threats due to siltation, reduced flow, pollution, dams and barrages and waterways development. “The exercise focussed on dolphins and a few aquatic animals would be a part of the state’s bigger endeavour to make headway in saving the river ecosystem and biodiversity” asserted Mr Jyoti.
The survey will include inputs from the Zoological Survey of India and Botany Department of Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University and will take a stock of other key fauna and threats existing in the river.WTI is doing seminal work on conservation of Gharials in the Gandak River, the work in hand would add new dimensions to it.