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Gangetic Dolphin: On the verge of extinction
Dolphin is basically a mammal found in the oceans, but some of its species are also found in freshwater. Just a few years ago, only 4 out of 88 freshwater dolphin species in the world were found to be alive, but only 3 remained by 2006. The dolphin named Baigi was found in freshwater of the Yangtze River of China, which is now gone extinct. Now except for the Ganga, only two dolphin species are found only in the Indus and Amazon rivers, which are known as Bhulan and Bota.

Gangetic dolphins are national aquatic creatures. We annually celebrate Gangetic Dolphin Day on October 5 and celebrate week from October 2 to October 8. Gangetic dolphins were declared endangered water animals in the year 1996. However, serious efforts have not yet been made for its protection. In 1982, its population was 6000, which has now come down to 1200 to 1800.

Gangetic dolphins are considered to be combative aquatic creatures, because in the adverse environment too, it has the potential to live. Having accommodating nature, the decrease in its numbers is definitely a matter of serious concern. In the Karnali River which flows in Nepal, it lives in 5 degrees Celsius temperature, while in Ganga which flow in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, it lives in 35 degree Celsius.

Usually, it is found at the confluence of the Ganges and its tributaries, so that it can make its habitat in the tributaries in difficult times. When the water in the Ganges is reduced, it builds its own temporary house in the tributaries. Gangetic dolphins do not like to live in shallow water and rocky area. Due to having this kind of nature, it lives in rivers like Ganges, Ramganga, Yamuna, Gomti, Rapti, Manas, Teesta, Lohit, Dihang etc.  

The Gangetic dolphin lives in fresh water, but it can also live in salty water basically in adjoining area of river and sea, but it does not like to be in the sea. After every 30 to 120 seconds it has to come on the water surface to breathe. Female Gangetic dolphin's nose and body length exceed male. Besides, its jaw joints, its long pointed teeth can be seen easily. The weight of an adult Gangetic dolphin is between 70 to 100 kilograms. The female dolphins have a pregnancy period of 9 months and she gives birth to one child at a time.

The residence of Gangetic dolphins is presently in Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna, Bangladesh's Karnaphuli, Sangu and Nepal's Karnali and Saptakoshi River. A few years back, this creature used to deviate in all parts of the rivers, but due to construction of barrage, its living area was divided into three parts. The barrages have divided the Ganges into the lower, middle and the upper part, due to which the Gangetic dolphins are not able to move from one part of the Ganges to the other. The Gangetic Dolphins, which lived near Kanpur, slowly died due to flow of chemical waste from the Narora Nuclear Plant and other factories located in Kanpur. Gangetic dolphins have to face difficulty in living their natural life due to low water level in the river.

Today, hunting of Gangetic dolphins is a favorite hobby of predators. It is done basically for meat, oil, fodder (for the purpose of catching catfish) etc. There is also a tradition of drinking Gangetic dolphin oil by pregnant women in Bangladesh. It is believed that by drinking oil, the baby would be healthy and beautiful.

In the Hooghly river of Kolkata, there is tremendous traffic of ferry and steamer right now. In the name of promoting tourism, steamers and ferries are run in the Ganges River in cities like Patna, Kolkata, where Gangetic dolphins collide or die. Sound pollution also has adverse effects on their health. Fishermen use nylon traps for fishing, in which Gangetic dolphins are trapped. They are also killed due to lack of awareness or greed.

The concentration of compost, pesticide, industrial and domestic waste is increasing rapidly in Ganga. Gangetic dolphins are getting reduced due to aquatic pollution. According to an estimate, 1.5 million metric tons of chemical fertilizer, 21000 tons of technical grade pesticides is transmitted in the Ganga and Brahmaputra every year. These chemicals are hazardous for kidney and liver of Gangetic River. In order to save the Gangetic Dolphin, the dolphin park can be established, fishermen and common people can be made aware, hunters can be trapped etc. Alas, such efforts are still not being done. Thus, celebrating Dolphin Day and Week will not yield positive result in this regard.

About Author: Satish Singh is currently working as Chief Manager in State Bank of India's Economic Research Department, Corporate Centre, Mumbai, and has been writing mainly on financial and banking topics for the last 10 years.

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