The dolphins are fast disappearing from the stretch of river Ganga flowing through Uttar Pradesh. According to a recent survey conducted by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) India, in collaboration with the UP government, there were only 1,263 dolphins left in the river’s stretch along the state. Though this number is higher compared to a previous study in 2012, when there were only 671 dolphins in the river, the recent figure has still left the environmentalists a worried lot.

As per the survey, the stretches which recorded relatively high numbers included the Varanasi downstream which recorded 269 dolphins. The 125 km stretch upstream of Fatehpur recorded 175 dolphins. The survey was conducted as part of the “Clean Ganga Mission” in order to ascertain the number of dolphins in the river.

The survey teams interviewed 700 community members across 80 villages along the river. Uttar Pradesh is the first state to conduct such a census, which was conducted following a simple technique (i.e. direct count method) based on the IUCN survey protocol for studying freshwater Cetaceans. In addition to estimating the population of Gangetic dolphins in Uttar Pradesh, a habitat evaluation was also conducted to record specific threats faced by the species.

A state government official said such an exercise would be conducted annually to monitor the habitats of dolphins and take steps to increase their numbers. A Dolphin Conservation Network has been set up for this purpose.

He said that the survey has thrown up some interesting patterns. “There have been variations across the stretch. While some stretches reported an increase, there was a decrease in others. We need to analyse the reasons for this. We also have information about the threats to the dolphins. All these inputs will be used for charting a conservation strategy for the dolphins,” said Prashant Verma, chief conservator of forests, UP government.  

The dolphin is considered to be an indicator species i.e. its numbers and distribution is an indication of the health of the Ganga. The dolphin is at the apex of the food chain in its habitat.

However, sources said a comprehensive study needs to be undertaken, taking into account the dolphins in the stretch along Bihar too, as a major portion of Ganga passes through that state as well. There is no conclusive study on its numbers along the Bihar stretch. However, as per estimates, there are about 3,600 dolphins in that stretch.

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