The Central government has initiated a survey to map the aquatic animal population including the endangered Gangetic Dolphins. The first of its kind survey will cover the entire Ganga river system and will prove useful in providing scientific data.
This data will help in undertaking planned initiatives and measures through the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). It is imperative to improve the water quality levels of the Ganga, as it is under severe stress due to pollution. The improvement in water quality will certainly lead to better ecological conditions, thus creating a more conducive environment for the aquatic life in the river.
On March 1, the first stage of the survey was launched, which will cover a distance of about 165 km. The first leg started in Uttar Pradesh from Narora and will be completed at Bijnor with the purpose of finding the total numbers of the India’s national aquatic animal, the Gangetic Dolphin. The next stage of the survey, covering around 250 km from Allahabad to Varanasi is expected to be launched soon after.
Apart from the survey, a study is also being undertaken at Harshil in Uttarakhand to understand the composition of various fish species in the entire 2,525 km length of river Ganga. Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a Dehradun-based institute has been given the charge of conducting the survey in the purview of the Namami Gange Programme.
The survey aims to focus not only on the number of Gangetic Dolphins but also on the population of Ghariyals and turtles in the River. This part of the survey will be completed during the summer time with counting to continue for a period of nine months, according to Sandeep Behera, NMCG consultant.
“This survey will help provide extensive information in regard to the Gangetic Dolphins, Ghariyals, Turtles, and other aquatic species. What makes this survey important is that it is the first time that a survey is being on the issue involving all the concerned states, and will not be based on just one state”, he added.
Further, he added, “the survey will help in future planning in India’s clean Ganga mission for the betterment of aquatic life and will help prevent habitat loss for the Gangetic dolphins.”
WII has been given charge to ensure proper coordination of forest departments of all the states which lie in the Ganga basin, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. A few NGOs which work on the bio-monitoring related issues have also been lined up to provide help for the survey.
The timing of the survey is important, as it will help avoid repeat count of these riverine creatures. Since the water level in the river is relatively low at this time, the Gangetic dolphins may be found concentrated in some specific areas. If successful, NMCG may also mull on the option of doing the survey in future again.