Restoration of important habitats for the Gangetic Dolphin, India

Aaaranyak aims to foster conservation of biodiversity in Northeast India through research, environmental education, capacity building and advocacy for legal and policy reform to bring about a new era of ecological security.
 
Gangetic Dolphin.  Image Udayan Borthadur
Gangetic Dolphin. Image Udayan Borthadur

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The Project

There are 635 endangered Ganges River Dolpin in the Brahmaputra river system of India. These dolphins are highly threatened by deliberate and accidental killing, over fishing and habitat degradation. This project will address habitat degradation, which happens through destruction of riparian vegetation as well as pollution from domestic waste, oil, grease and rubbish from passenger and tourist boats. Dolphin habitat restoration training will be given to 60 community youths from the 30 most important dolphin habitats along a 100 km stretch of river. This training will be followed by organised restoration activities in these habitats with active involvement of local communities; focusing on cleaning up waste in the river and riparian vegetation restoration in the river bank. Guidelines will be developed and regular monitoring processes will be established with local communities to prevent further habitat degradation and maintain the cleanliness of these important dolphin habitats.
 
Dolphin Habitat
Dolphin Habitat

The Update

So far 45 young people from the local community have been given 5 days extensive training in habitat restoration activities.  Formal awareness campaigns to prevent habitat degradation in important dolphin areas have taken place on 10 sites, and 25 less formal campaigns have also taken place further afield.  This has covered issues such as litter / waste and discarding ofoil and grease directly into the rivers.

There have been 10 days of litter removal and habitat restoration activities, involving over 1000 people from the local commumity and students from 52 different local organisations.  Huge amounts of litter has been collected, which has then been sorted and recycled where possible. An action plan has been put into place so that each of these local communities can contine with these activities going forward.

Replanting will take place during the summer months in targeted areas once the waters from the monoon floods have receded.

Update November 2017: This has been a huge community project with very large numbers of local villagers getting involved and being made aware of the importance of waste management and keeping rivers clean.

55 young people selected from 25 communities have been trained in habitat restoration activities.

There have been 10 river side clean ups in 10 important dolphin habitats, removing vast amounts of litter and involving over 800 local volunteers.

Community awareness people have taken place over 26 sites, involving 1775 people.

Planting of seedlings and shrubs on river banks to provide stability has taken place in 13 sites

Awareness raising and discussions have been carried out with a number of boat owners and pilots about the importance of not polluting the water or disturbing dolphins.

Pictorial booklets have been produced for local communities about how to deal with household waste rather than dumping it in and around rivers, using techniques such as composting, and not throwing plastic where animals can eat it.   7 community committees have been formed to set up their own rues and regulations to prevent dolphin habitat degradation.  Clean up committees have also been established.

The project has had its own unique challenges, and scepticism from villagers as to the necessity for the work has been a major part of it, particularly amongst more rural populations.  The proposed waste collection sites had to be put on hold as they would not be used, instead the project concentrated on the awareness campaign of restoring critical dolphin habitat, and spent more time reaching more isolated communities to talk to them instead.  Early and then prolonged monsoon rains hampered work and forced the cancellation of some.


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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage