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Minister: River dolphin numbers up by 55% in Sundarbans

  • Published at 12:00 pm October 24th, 2020
File photo of a dolphin: WCS Bangladesh

The freshwater or Gangetic dolphin is locally known as the shushuk

The freshwater dolphin population in the Sundarbans is growing at a rate of 55% as the conservation efforts of the government are proving successful, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin has said on Saturday.

The official status of the river dolphins is “critically endangered” as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

“The growth rate of dolphins in the Dhangmari, Ghagharamari and Chandpai sanctuaries of the Sundarbans is 55%, which is a milestone for dolphin conservation in the country,” the minister said during a program organized by the Forest Department to commemorate International Freshwater Dolphin Day 2020.

The environment minister addressed the webinar through video conference from his official residence, according to a press release quoted by BSS.

Deputy Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Begum Habibun Nahar, Secretary Ziaul Hasan and Additional Secretary (Administration) Dr Md. Billal Hossain spoke as special guests at the webinar with Chief Conservator of Forests Md Amir Hossain Chowdhury in the chair.

IUCN Bangladesh’s Country Representative Rakibul Amin, Jahangirnagar University Professor Dr Md Abdul Aziz and Mukit Majumder Babu, chairman of Nature and Life Foundation were present as discussants, among others.

The freshwater or Gangetic dolphin is locally known as the shushuk. The dolphins are a crucial indicator of the health of river ecosystems, so the government is working hard to protect them, Shahab Uddin said.

The Dolphin Action Plan

Regarding the initiatives taken by the government to protect the freshwater dolphin population, the minister said the government has so far declared nine dolphin sanctuaries in the country, as well as prepared a Dolphin Action Plan and an Atlas on Dolphin Expansion. 

Also Read - International Freshwater Dolphin Day 2020 being observed 

“We have determined the number of dolphins in the Halda River and a management plan has been formulated,” he added.

Community based resource management plans have been formulated for three dolphin sanctuaries in the Sundarbans, and seven dolphin conversation teams consisting of locals have been formed for the conservation efforts, the minister further said. 

Appropriate training has been provided to the dolphin conservation teams and the forest personnel concerned, and various school-college and community based dolphin awareness activities are also being conducted, including organizing dolphin fairs, according to Shahab Uddin.

Training and alternative income generating financial assistance have been provided to one thousand people dependent on the fishery resources adjacent to the Dolphin Sanctuary in the Sundarbans, he added.

In response to the demands of the discussants, the minister said the ministry would seriously consider declaring freshwater dolphins as national freshwater animals and the integrated dolphin conservation activities of the Forest Department, WCS Bangladesh and IUCN would continue.

On October 13, a freshwater dolphin with injury marks was found dead in the Halda river.

On August 14, another dolphin was found dead at Modunaghat point of the river.

According to researchers, rampant pollution, using dredgers for lifting river sand, shallow water and plying of mechanized boats are sharply reducing the dolphin population in the Halda.

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