Kolkata: The West Bengal forest department is all set to conduct a state-wide census of the endangered Gangetic dolphins and is awaiting the release of central funds, an official said Monday.
The Dolphin Action Plan prepared by the state forest department has been forwarded to Delhi by the urban development department. The plan is a component of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and needs funding from the Centre.
"The funding has to come from the Centre. As soon as the funds are released we will be able to get on with the job," Ujjwal Bhattacharya, principal chief conservator of forest, Bengal, told IANS, adding the work could begin in January next year.
The action plan involves a census in the portion of the Ganges within Bengal and awareness programmes concerning the species. It also highlights the methods that would be used to count their numbers.
Regarded as indicators of pollution, the dolphins are mostly found in Murshidabad, regions above Farakka, in the tributaries of the Ganges - Ichamati, Torsa and Joldhasa -and in non-saline waters near the Sunderban mangroves in the state.
They can only live in freshwater and are essentially blind.
One of the main threats to the species is loss of habitat due to the creation of dams and irrigation projects and pollution.
According to a WWF factsheet, the Ganges river dolphin inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
It was declared as the national aquatic animal of India in 2010.
Once found in thousands, there are fewer than 2,000 of them left in the country.