Experts from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar have come together to save river dolphins.
Attending a webinar on “Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the ecosystem health of rivers and its dolphin population: Present status and future strategy for conservation in India-Bangladesh-Myanmar-Nepal’, experts from these countries stressed on regional cooperation for dolphin conservation.
The webinar was organised by the Inland Fisheries Society of India, ICAR – Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, National Mission for Clean Ganga , Professional Fisheries Graduates Forum (PFGF), and Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society.
The unique species of river dolphins, found mainly in rivers of Asia and South America, are on the verge of extinction.
Gangetic dolphin, the national aquatic animal of India, has been declared endangered by International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
This webinar was organised to discuss the future strategy to conserve and revive these dolphins with regional cooperation.
Dr JK Jena, DDG (Fisheries Science), ICAR in his address said “with less disturbance and interference dolphins can thrive on their own, and that is what we have seen during the lockdown”.
He said, “These animals do not realise boundaries and have tried to find habitat wherever possible. Hence, regional cooperation is very important in conserving them.”
Dr BC Chaudhury, retired principal scientist at Wildlife institute of India and Dr M Munawar of Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society, Canada were also present in the meeting.
Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), said while working on rejuvenation of river Ganga, continuous efforts in the Nanami Gange programme to bring Dolphin Conservation to national attention has resulted in the announcement of “Project Dolphin”.
He said the project will be in-line with “Project Tiger” which has successfully helped in increasing the tiger population.
However, the most important thing to focus on now is community participation along with scientific interventions.
Namami Gange has given importance to biodiversity and ecological improvement along with pollution abatement and projects have been taken up for the improvement of fisheries with CIFRI and for biodiversity conservation with Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
“Under this framework, this is a first of its kind occasion where the fishery sector is leading the Dolphin Conservation discourse,” Dr Ranjan said.
Prof AP Sharma, ex-director at ICAR-CIFRI, Barrackpore, highlighted the need of research on dolphin habitat restoration and Dr Dilip Kumar, ex-vice chancellor, ICAR-CIFE, spoke about the social aspects of fishermen’s life and dolphins in rural India.
The webinar highlighted that Sunderban delta is a unique ecological space where Gangetic as well as Irrawaddy dolphins are present, spread over India as well as Bangladesh.
The conference gave a unique opportunity to share experience on the dolphins.
The webinar was attended by more than 1000 participants across the world.
The other lectures included ‘Conservative measure of Irrawaddy Dolphin in Myanmar’ by Dr Hla Win, DDG- Fisheries- Retired, Myanmar, ‘Status of Dolphins in Nepalese Rivers’ by Dr Madhav K. Shrestha, Professor, Aquaculture AFU (Retired), Nepal and ‘National Atlas and Dolphin action plan- Bangladesh’ by Professor Md. A. Aziz, Prof Benazir Ahmed, senior experts from Bangladesh.
The conference resolved to continue this regional and multi-sectoral collaboration.