New Delhi, March 25: Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said October 5 would now be celebrated as the ‘National Dolphin Day’ every year.
Just as a tiger is considered an indicator of a good forest, river dolphins are an indicator of a healthy river and act as an umbrella species of the river ecosystem.
There are currently two species of river dolphins inhabiting India, the Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica) and the Indus river dolphin (Platanista minor).
Ganges river dolphin is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 in India, and was declared as the National Aquatic Animal of India on October 5, 2010. They are also accorded the highest protection priority for conservation, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced ‘Project Dolphin’ in his Independence Day speech in 2020.
Once present in tens of thousands of numbers, the river dolphin numbers have dwindled abysmally during the last century owing to direct killing, habitat fragmentation by dams and barrages, indiscriminate fishing, and pollution of the rivers.
River dolphins are found in the Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna river systems, extending from the foot of the Himalayas to the tidal zone in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. Dolphins are also found in Chilika lake.
The decision to declare October 5 as the National Dolphin Day was taken at the 67th meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). The Standing Committee discussed several important policy issues prior to declaring the day of national importance.
The Ministry officials said it has been taking up several activities for the protection and conservation of Dolphins and their habitats. Considering that generating awareness amongst the people on the benefits of conservation of Dolphins and participation of people in conservation efforts is imperative, the Standing Committee recommended that every year October 5 shall be celebrated as National Dolphin Day.
As reported by IANS earlier, the MoEF&CC has already undertaken the pan-India enumeration project for dolphins, the report for which is expected by June-July 2022.
Government records show that the recent estimation of the Ganges river dolphins in the Ganga river basin along with its tributaries stands at 2,644 and in the Brahmaputra along with its tributaries stands at 987 (survey in 2017-2018). The Indus river dolphin, meanwhile, has a population of 6-8 dolphins in India, distributed only in a small pocket of the Beas River in Punjab, with the majority of the population, of 1,816 individuals, residing in Pakistan.