Kolkata: To protect the endangered Gangetic river dolphins here and in nearby districts, a three-day campaign is being run on a cruise.
The 'River for Life' campaign by WWF was kicked off here yesterday on a cruise from the Millennium Park under which they are conducting a series of conservation action with the local community at different points across the length of nearly 200 km from Kolkata to Nabadwip.
Saswati Sen, state director of WWF, said during their journey they are interacting with children and youth from schools and colleges near the river to sensitise them.
"We are meeting thousands of people in places like Belur, Sobhabazar, Chinsurah, Chandannagar, to spread awareness on the need to keep the Ganga clean and protect dolphin which is our national aquatic animal," she said.
Besides meetings, film shows and quiz contests are being conducted by the team of activists. They are also distributing pamphlets for mass awareness.
Weighing around 150-170 kg, the number of the species is estimated to be less than 2,000 in India.
West Bengal is yet to do a survey on its number.
Experts sitting on board the cruise sighted at least 12 dolphins during the journey.
It is a spectacular sight for commuters crossing the river Hooghly, as Ganges is known in West Bengal, to see the greyish brown dolphin jumping in and out of water.
Commonly known as 'Susuk', dolphin's skin makes it easy to spot in the expanse of water.
Direct killing, habitat fragmentation due to construction
of dams and barrages, indiscriminate fishing and pollution of rivers are some of the major threats affecting the species.
"They get entangled into the fishing net many a time. We are explaining to the fishermen on how to release it back into its habitat if they accidentally catch the dolphin. Many fishermen do not know that it is a mammal and not a fish," Sen said.
Often known as the 'Tiger of the Ganges', the river dolphin is an indicator animal, which has the same position in a river ecosystem as a tiger in a forest.
"It is a flagship species for the river. If dolphins are plenty in number that means the river is healthy. Their numbers will fall if it gets polluted," Sen said.
The West Bengal forest department has prepared a Dolphin Action Plan under the National Mission for Clean Ganga for which they have sought funds from the Centre.
WWF said they will try to do a dolphin census in the state next year. Besides the Ganga, dolphins are found in different rivers like Kosi, Chambal and Brahamaputra.