West Bengal may get dolphin reserve

KOLKATA: The Ganges river dolphin — India’s national aquatic animal — is set to get more protection in Bengal. The stretch of river Hooghly between Malda and Sagar is likely to be developed as a dolphin community reserve.

Confirming the development, state chief wildlife warden Azam Zaidi said that the proposal would be placed for approval at the tenth meeting of the state wildlife board at Nabanna on October 8. Bengal is home to both the species of dolphins found in India, Irrawaddy dolphin and the Ganges river dolphin.

“The habitat of the Irrawaddy dolphins is comparatively protected since its part of the Sunderbans. But, the distribution range of the Ganga river dolphin here — Hooghly — is not a part of any protected area network in the state. Hence, our focus is on Hooghly and the Ganges river dolphin,” Zaidi added.

The dolphin is often considered as a bio-monitoring tool of river health. Hence, conservation of the Ganges river dolphin will also ensure protection of the ecology of river Hooghly, said a source.

“Fishing and other rights must have been existing in various parts of river Hooghly. The declaration of the area as community reserve won’t adversely impact such activities. The focus will be on conservation of the Ganges river dolphin and its habitat. This needs to be discussed with various stakeholders,” states the agenda item No. 5 under which the proposal has been listed.

Zaidi refused to divulge much about the project. However, a source said that a survey on the status and extent of the dolphin habitat would be taken up prior to the declaration of the area as a dolphin community reserve.

Date: 7/10/2015