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Bihar plans to conserve dolphins

December 13, 2005 11:58 IST

The Bihar government is planning to develop dolphin sites in the river Ganga near Patna for tourist purposes as part of the dolphin conservation project.

"We have decided to develop dolphin sites in Ganga to attract tourists to watch and enjoy the rare dolphins under the conservation programme," Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Bashir Ahmad Khan said in Patna.

Khan told rediff.com that dolphin sites will attract tourists and create awareness about its conservation. "The departments of forest and environment along with tourism have started work to identify sites in Ganga for dolphin sites to be developed as a tourist destination. We will soon send a proposal to the central forest and environment department for approval as well as funds," he said.

Nearly a decade ago, a dolphin sanctuary was set up in Ganga at Kahalgaon near Bhagalpur. This is the only fresh water dolphin sanctuary in Asia, spread in area covering 50 km.

According to researchers, the dolphin population across India is nearly 2,000. 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.

The main cause behind the declining number of dolphins is attributed to increasing pollution in the Ganges. This is killing its famous dolphins. Besides, its killing for oil and skin by poachers is another factor.

A rapidly shrinking Ganga, which Hindus consider holy, and the river's changing course are the other factors threatening the dolphins, said R K Sinha, who heads the central government's dolphin conservation project.

Sinha warned that rare river dolphins would disappear unless urgent steps are taken to clean up the Ganga. In 1996, freshwater dolphins -- locally known as "sons of the river" -- were categorised as endangered species by the World Conservation Union, a forum of conservationists, non governmental organisations and government agencies.

Fishermen are known to kill dolphins to use their fat to prepare fish bait. The smell of the bait made from dolphin fat attracts fish.

Anand Mohan Sahay in Patna