Release of Gangetic Dolphin Conservation Action Plan, India

The Prime Minister of India declared the Gangetic Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal of India on the 5th October, 2009 and it was formally notified on 10th May, 2010. A Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin was then prepared by a Working Group under the Chairmanship of Prof. Ravindra Kumar Sinha, a Member of the IUCN CSG. The Conservation Action Plan was officially released on 1st November, 2010 in the Second Meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority chaired by the Prime Minister of India. Sri Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment and Forests emphasized that conservation of the Gangetic Dolphin is crucial to the welfare of the Ganges river ecosystem and highlighted that the presence of the dolphin in a river system signals its good health and biodiversity.

The Plan has several important features that will ensure the existence of healthy populations of the Gangetic dolphin in the Ganga River system. First, it proposes a set of detailed surveys to assess the population of the dolphin and the threats it faces. Second, immediate actions for dolphin conservation, such as the creation of protected areas and the restoration of degraded ecosystems, are detailed. Third, community involvement and the mitigation of human-dolphin conflict are proposed as methods that will ensure the long-term survival of the dolphin in the rivers of India.

Download the Gangetic Dolphin Conservation Action Plan

Dams and River dolphins in the Brahmaputra River

A Letter of Concern was sent from the Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission to the Minister of Environment and Forests in India regarding the potential impacts of five large dams on the Endangered Gangetic dolphins in the Brahmaputra River Basin, India

The Gangetic dolphin is redlisted by IUCN as Endangered, and the Brahmaputra River Basin is one of its last remaining refuges. Almost 170 dams are in the planning stages or are already under construction in various tributaries of the Brahmaputra River. Due to their location, five of these dams have great potential to harm the Gangetic dolphins living downstream. These are the Lower Subansiri Dam (already under construction), the Lower Siang Dam, the Dibang Dam, Lower Damwe Dam, and Kulsi Dam. Individually, these dams are likely to result in declines in the range and/or abundance of the Gangetic dolphin population. Together, they could have cumulative impacts leading to the complete disappearance of the species from the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries. The Species Survival Commission sent a letter to the Indian Government stating that it, and the CSG, is ready to provide support in their efforts to bring about the conservation and recovery of the Gangetic dolphin in India. They suggested that before any plans to construction and operate the five dams are approved by the Government of India:

(1) a comprehensive environmental impact assessment be undertaken that explicitly includes potential downstream impacts on Gangetic dolphins of the five dams both individually and cumulatively;

(2) a river basin approach be taken towards managing water development in the Brahmaputra Basin such that efforts to conserve Gangetic dolphins in one area are not undermined by dam construction in another area; and

(3) if the anticipated impacts of one or more of the five dams are judged to be severe and cannot be reduced to acceptable levels, then the option of not constructing them should be considered.