GUWAHATI: MV Ganga Vilas, a three-decked river cruise was launched from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently.

However, according to environmentalists and conservationists, the “world’s longest river cruise” could damage the habitat of the endangered Ganges river dolphin.

MV Ganga Vilas, the “longest river cruise in the world”, which took its maiden journey from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is slated to travel 3200 km over 51 days to Dibrugarh in Assam.

The river cruise will pass through 27 different river systems between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Dibrugarh in Assam.

The luxury voyage will pass through Kaithi village, 30km from Varanasi at the confluence of the Ganges and Gomti River.

The intersection’s deep water and slower currents offer the endangered dolphin a secure refuge.

Wildlife experts estimated that 35 to 39 dolphins were present in the area in October after spotting a pod with calves.

Apart from Kaithi village, the cruise will pass through a number of other protected cetacean habitats including Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bihar.

According to experts, Ganges river dolphins face a number of threats like water pollution, excessive water extraction, and poaching.

Biologist Ravindra Kumar Sinha told The Guardian that cruises are a dangerous proposition for the dolphins, in addition to all the existing risks.

There are about 3200 dolphins in the Ganges and 500 in the Brahmaputra in Assam.

As they (river dolphins) are “nearly blind”, Gangetic dolphins use echolocation clicks to seek food and navigate through the murky waters.

“There’s no doubt that disturbances from cruises will gravely impact the dolphins, which are sensitive to noise,” he said.

According to Kashif Siddiqui, marketing director of Antara, which organised MV Ganga Vilas cruise, the company is following all the environmental precautions and government guidelines.

“With sustainable principles at its heart, the Ganga Vilas incorporates pollution prevention and noise control technologies to honour the ancient rivers travelled through,” reads the promotional material for the cruise.

About the Luxury Cruise:

1) The luxury cruise has three decks, 18 suites, a capacity for 36 passengers, and all the luxuries facilities.

2) 32 Swiss tourists have signed up for the entire duration of the inaugural trip.

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