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.