Project Dolphin – UPSC Prelims

Project Dolphin

  • 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.
Previous Year Questions:
Which one of the following is the national aquatic animal of India? (2015)
(a) Saltwater crocodile
(b) Olive ridley turtle
(c) Gangetic dolphin
(d) Gharial
Ans: (c)
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