Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fish die in Ganga River's dolphin sanctuary

Death of a large number of fishes along a stretch of the river Ganga, close to a dolphin sanctuary in Bihar's Bhagalpur district, has left forest officials and authorities worried.

'The mysterious deaths of fishes near the Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary may pose a serious threat to the endangered Ganga river dolphins,' a forest official said.

The government had set up the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur a decade ago. The sanctuary is spread over a 50-km stretch of the Ganga.

However, Abhay Kumar, in-charge of the sanctuary, said there was no threat to the dolphins.
Dolphins are locally called sons of the Ganga, but pollution and rampant fishing have threatened their existence.

Untreated sewage, rotting carcasses and industrial effluents that find their way into the Ganga during its 2,500-km-long journey across several states from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal have adversely affected the dolphins.

Researchers estimate the dolphin population across India to be a little over 1,500. Half of these are found in the Ganga in Bihar. The numbers have dropped drastically over the past decades. In the 1980s, the Gangetic delta zone alone had around 3,500 dolphins.

In 1996, freshwater dolphins were categorised as an endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a forum of conservationists, NGOs and government agencies.
The Bhagalpur district administration has confirmed the death of the fishes.

'Fishes have died along a stretch of river Ganga but we do not know what had caused their deaths,' Bhagalpur district magistrate Bipin Kumar told IANS.

Official sources said over 500 quintals of fish died in the past week in the Ganga in Bhagalpur.
Local people said some fishermen might have poisoned the fishes while others said they might have died due to pollution in the river.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"