- The census of one of the world’s most threatened cetaceans, the Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) — a freshwater dolphin that is found in river Beas, is all set to commence in the winter as part of a project by the Centre. However, Punjab’s wildlife preservation wing has gone a step ahead to not only protect the dolphins but also their natural habitat.
Key Steps taken
- Enumeration of freshwater dolphins is being undertaken as a nationwide project of the Central Government. At the State level, the Punjab Government has taken the initiative for conservation of dolphins and its habitat.
- The State Government has recently sent a proposal to the Government of India that focuses on a multi-pronged strategy, including habitat management, research, monitoring, advocacy, and environmental education.
- The project is to be implemented over five years. Emphasis will be laid to collect data on spatial and temporal distribution pattern of species and population status through an established and approved methodology. Habitat improvement will be an important component of the project.
- Extension programmes will be held to develop a group of dedicated individuals, called ‘Beas-Dolphin Mitras’ [friends and protectors] of the river Beas. The project also will embark on dolphin eco-tourism. We will adopt a participatory process to address various water conservation-related issues, including protection of freshwater habitats and species.
- The Beas river supports a viable population of several key aquatic species and the 185 km stretch of the river starting from 52 Headworks, Talwara to Harike Headworks was declared as the Beas Conservation Reserve in 2018.
About Indus river dolphin
- The Indus river dolphin is classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and, until recently, it was believed that these dolphins were endemic to Pakistan.
- But in 2007, a remnant but viable population of Indus dolphins was discovered in Punjab’s Harike wildlife sanctuary and in the lower Beas river.
- The Indus river dolphin was declared the State aquatic animal of Punjab in 2019.
- Beas is spread over 500 km originating from Manali in Himachal Pradesh and merges with Sutlej River at Harike Wetland in Punjab. But it is the 100 km stretch between Amritsar, Taran Taran, Ferozpur and Kapurthala
- districts where these dolphins mostly live.
- Indus dolphins (Platanista gangetica minor), locally known as bhulan, are among the eight freshwater dolphin species currently existing in the world.
- Found in freshwater sources like rivers, these dolphins cannot survive in saltwater like their marine counterparts.
- These dolphins are blind and depend on echolocation.
- The Indus dolphin along with the more popular Ganges river dolphin is a subspecies of the South Asian River dolphin.
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