Ganges river dolphins once lived in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. But the species is extinct from most of its early distribution ranges. There are only about 1,800 Ganges river dolphins left and numbers are still falling.
Unsurprisingly, humans are responsible. A proliferation of damming projects along the Ganges along with constant pesticide and fertiliser run-off makes the river a harsh and difficult place to live. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, 9,000 tons of toxic pesticides and 6 million tons of fertiliser are used near the Ganges every year.
Some river dolphins are also killed deliberately, for their meat and oil, and others die as accidental bycatch in fishing nets.
The Ganges river dolphin is struggling to cope with destructive dams, overfishing, pollution and hunting. Most of these also have an impact on the people who depend on the Ganges. Protecting this iconic species would also protect one of India's most vital ecosystems and the people and animals that depend on it.
It is important to bear in mind that this species is the sole living representative of its family, and therefore its extinction would mean the loss of more than just a single species. If the river dolphin is to be saved, immediate action to reduce pollution, address unsustainable fishing methods and stop further destructive development is essential.
India’s government has a responsibility to protect India’s people, environment, wildlife and natural resources. I hope that you will learn from the irreversible mistakes of other countries and take the lead in conservation initiatives.
I ask you to join me in this stand to save the Ganges river dolphin. Together, we can prevent the extinction of this beautiful species.