Measures Proposed for Gangetic Dolphin protection:
- The Ministry of Shipping has proposed mitigation measures based on Comprehensive Environmental and Social lmpact Assessment (ESIA) study on National Waterway-I including on stretches falling within VGDS.
- Vessel speed would be restricted to 2.7 knots in Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) area to reduce the noise generation from propeller.
- lf any aquatic mammal/dolphin is spotted, then the measures will be taken to push it away through sirens/signals.
- Vessels would be fitted with propeller guards and dolphin deflectors to minimise dolphin accidents.
- Non-toxic paints to be used for painting vessels.
About: National Waterway 1
- National Waterway-1 is an inland water transport route between Haldia in West Bengal to Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh and runs across the Ganges, Bhagirathi and Hooghly river systems.
- The objective of the project is to promote inland waterways as a cheap and environment-friendly means of transportation, especially for cargo movement.
- It is 1,620 km long, making it the longest waterway in India.
- It is of prime importance amongst all the national waterways considering its locational advantages, as it passes through the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- It potentially serves the major cities of Haldia, Howrah, Kolkata, Bhagalpur, Patna, Ghazipur, Varanasi and Allahabad, their industrial hinterlands and several industries located along the Ganga Basin.
- The rail and road corridors of this region are already saturated. Hence, development of NW-1 would lead to a cost-effective alternative mode of transportation, especially, for bulk goods, hazardous goods and over-dimensional cargo.
- Three multi-modal terminals at Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Sahibganj (Jharkhand), and Haldia (West Bengal)
- Inter-modal terminals at Kalughat and Ghazipur
- New state of the art navigation lock at Farakka
- Five Ro-Ro terminals
- Development of Ferry services at Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Munger, Kolkata and Haldia.
- Construction of Integrated Ship Repair and Maintenance Complexes.
- Provision of River Information System (RIS) and Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS)
- It has been taken up with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank. The cost of the project is shared between the Indian government and the World Bank on 50:50 ratio.
- Inland Waterways Authority of India has been designated as the Implementing Agency for the Project.
Threats posed by NW-1
- The Ganga is not just a river but abode of numerous aquatic animals viz. gangetic dolphin, the fish-eating crocodile—the Gharial, numerous freshwater turtles, fishes, and birds.
- The proposed waterway development has the potential to cause the extinction of several endangered species, including the Ganges river dolphin.
- Capital dredging will be required for deepening, widening and straightening waterways.
- This practice reduces the hydro-geomorphological complexity and variability of the river habitat which supports productive fisheries and the prey of Ganges river dolphins and Gharials.
- Dredging also destroys benthic (river bed) flora, fauna and their habitats full of organic detritus. Many river fauna including some fishes are detritivores feeding on detritus. These biota serve as food for fishes and other vertebrates including dolphin.
- The spread out water of the river is collected inside a small channel during dredging. Aquatic organisms lay eggs in the spread out shallow water of the river. Thus, converting the river into one stream directly affects these aquatic lives.
- Intensive dredging activity produces extreme noise and instability which will be further compounded by the noise produced by the ships. This has harmful effects on aquatic biology.
- Since dolphins are blind, they use echolocation, which allows them to see by interpreting the echoes of sound waves that bounce off objects near them in the water. Therefore, the noise could disturb dolphin habitats and breeding cycle.
- In many areas, their population has been locally extirpated or persist only in very small numbers.
- Barrages further create a physical barrier and divide dolphin population in several mega-populations making the population vulnerable.
- Riverine wildlife, will be at increased risk of being struck by vessels and of being displaced from critical habitat by vessel-induced disturbance.
- Fuel leaks and oil spills appear unavoidable on account of the planned traffic load and will pollute their habitat significantly.
About: Gangetic Dolphin
- The Gangetic dolphin, is found exclusively in freshwater habitat.
- It inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
- Common Names: Blind dolphin, Ganges dolphin, Ganges susu, hihu, side-swimming dolphin, South Asian River Dolphin
- Scientific name:Platanistagangetica
- The Ganges river dolphin has been recognized by the government of India as its National Aquatic Animal and is the official animal of the Indian city of Guwahati.
- IUCN Status: Endangered
- A long thin snout, rounded belly, stocky body and large flippers are characteristics of the Ganges River dolphin.
- Although its eye lacks a lens (this species is also referred to as the “blind dolphin”), the dolphin still uses its eye to locate itself.
- Being a mammal, the Ganges River dolphin cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the ‘Susu’.
About: Wildlife Trust of India
- Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a leading Indian nature conservation organisation committed to the service of nature.
- Its mission is to conserve wildlife and its habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments.
- It was formed in November 1998 in response to the rapidly deteriorating condition of wildlife in India.
- It is a registered charity in India (under Section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961).
- Vision: To secure natural heritage of India.
- Priority landscapes: WTI currently focuses its resources on six priority landscapes – northeast India, western Himalayas, terai, southern Ghats system, central India and marine.
About: IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC)
- The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) is a science-based network of more than 8,000 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world.
- It towards achieving the vision of, a just world that values and conserves nature through positive action to reduce the loss of diversity of life on earth.
- Working in close association with IUCN’s Global Species Programme, SSC’s major role is to provide information to IUCN on biodiversity conservation, the inherent value of species, their role in ecosystem health and functioning, the provision of ecosystem services, and their support to human livelihoods. This information is fed into The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- SSC members also provide scientific advice to conservation organisations, government agencies and other IUCN members, and support the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.
- The Policies, Guidelines & Standards produced by the SSC provide guidance to specialized conservation projects and initiatives, such as re-introducing animals into their former ranges, handling confiscated specimens, and halting the spread of invasive species.