Bihar steps up vigil to prevent dolphin hunting

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 10:54

Patna: Alarmed by a steady decline in the
number of dolphins, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has
ordered a strict enforcement of the ban on the hunting of the
national aquatic animal.

Official sources said Kumar has directed the District
Magistrates of Patna, Bhagalpur and Buxar to see that the ban
order has been adhered to.
Officials have been asked to keep close surveillance
along the Ganga river banks to stop the hunting, Patna
District Magistrate JK Sinha said.

Patna and Bhagalpur districts are the two districts
where dolphins have been reportedly found dead in the past.

The decision to declare the Ganga dolphin as an Indian
national aquatic animal was taken at a meeting of the
newly-formed Ganga River Basin Authority in New Delhi that
called for accelerated steps to clean up the river.

The meeting, which took place early this month, was
chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Six endangered Ganga river dolphins were found dead in
Bihar earlier this year following which wildlife activists
had called for urgent action.

Around six dolphins were killed by poachers and
fishermen in the last one month alone in the Vikramshila
Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, one of the four freshwater dolphin
sanctuaries in the world.

The head of the zoology department of Patna
University, RK Sinha, had warned that the mammals would
disappear unless urgent steps were taken to clean up the
Ganga.

Sinha, a well-known expert on Gangetic dolphins, said
dolphins are the lifeline of the Ganga. "If the dolphin
numbers increase, it will be a sign for a clean Ganga and if
the numbers decrease, it is a sign of increasing pollution."
Sinha, who has been researching river dolphins for
over two decades, also pointed out that immersion of idols
during Hindu festivals posed a grave threat to the river and
aquatic life.

He suggested that man-made water bodies be used for
immersing idols instead of the Ganga.

A report released by international NGO World Wide
Fund for Nature two years ago said the Ganga was among the 10
big rivers in the world facing extinction.

Untreated sewage, rotting carcasses and industrial
effluents that find their way into the Ganga during its
2,500-km-long journey across several states from the Himalayas
to the Bay of Bengal have also affected the dolphins, Sinha
said.

Researchers estimate the dolphin population across
India to be a little over 2,000. Half of these are found in
the Ganga in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The numbers have dropped drastically over the past
decades. In the 1980s, the Gangetic delta zone alone had
around 3,500 dolphins.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 10:54

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