Friday, November 17, 2006

Fighting for the survival of the Ganges dolphin

Starting Wednesday, CNN-IBN is running a special series, The Ganga is Dying, on the problems plaguing the river. Flagging off the series is Citizen Journalist, Shweta Bachchan Nanda, who has been involved in protecting the rare river dolphin that is struggling to survive in the waters of the Ganga.

Narora (Uttar Pradesh): Dolphins are a dying species in the Ganga today because of pollution or being trapped in fishermen's nets. With only a few thousand left, scientists from the World Wide Fund for Nature are doing their best to save these gentle creatures.

Citizen Journalist Shweta Bachchan Nanda finds out what is being done to save river dolphins and her first stop is an ashram besides the holy river as it crosses UP's Narora.

Sadhus and pandits have lived on the banks of the river for centuries and stories about the Ganga and the dolphins have been handed down over the years.

“The Ganga is a holy river and so are the creatures in it. We tell everyone to respect and protect them,” a pandit says.

Local fishermen at Narora are now responding to the dolphin campaign by changing some of their fishing practices as dolphins often get entangled in nylon nets and die of suffocation.

“Dolphins today are a threatened species. The government must give them as much importance as other species,” scientist at WWF, Parikshit Gautam says.

For the fishermen the dolphin, locally known as the saus, is just another fish and catching fish is their livelihood. The tricky question is how to save the dolphin and not deprive the fishermen of their livelihood.

“The fishermen here follow a procedure while fishing. They follow the rules laid by WWF,” a fisherman says.

Dolphins face other threats, too, like dams, barrages and pollution from industrial sewage, which have fragmented the habitat of the fish.

Yet on this stretch of the Ganga, thanks to local initiative by scientists from WWF, fishermen and sadhus, sightings of dolphins are still possible and the numbers have also doubled.

But along the rest of this mighty and holy river, a lot still needs to be done to save the Gangetic dolphin from extinction.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"