Punjab: with Beas pollution low, Indus river dolphins venture

CHANDIGARH: With the reduction of human activities and the improvement of the water quality of the Beas during the closure of Covid-19, one of the rarest mammals in the world, they are observed more frequently in the Beas Conservation Reserve and They have also begun venturing into other areas, up to about 50 km from their hotspots in Beas.

Two of the four species of freshwater dolphins in the world are found in India. These are the Ganges and Indo river dolphins. Beas Conservation Reserve in Punjab is home to the only Indus river dolphin population in the country.

There has been a marked improvement in the water quality of the Beas over the past month. Last week, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) conducted a survey on water quality and said the river was no longer in the polluted category.

Field observations by the wildlife department and 'dolphin mitras', a network of riverine communities trained to monitor the river's health by WWF-India, reveal that Indus river dolphins were being seen more frequently at points critics of the villages of Gharka and Karmowala that fall in Tarn Taran District and occasionally at Harike Wildlife Sanctuary.

The teams saw one to four dolphins per sighting. However, no calves were observed along with adult or sub-adult dolphins. Dolphin sightings are most common between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. at critical points.

Considering frequent dolphin watching as an encouraging sign, Dr. Kuldip Kumar, Punjab's chief chief forest, wildlife and wildlife conservator, said that in addition to the Beas Conservation Reserve, dolphins also they are venturing into the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary. Wildlife department teams have also reported sightings of sympathetic species such as gharials, turtles and smooth-coated otters along with Indus river dolphins, Dr. Kumar said.

Encouraged by the sightings, the wildlife department has planned to conduct a detailed assessment of the species after lifting the Covid-19 restrictions. To ensure wildlife safety and prevent illegal activities in the protected area, the department is conducting active patrols.

Dr. Gitanjali Kanwar, WWF-India coordinator, said: “The dolphin miter that live on the banks of the Beas are acting as ears and eyes so that we understand the reality amid the current situation of Covid-19. WWF-India and the wildlife department trained and formed a network of Beas friends in 30 villages around the Beas Conservation Reserve starting in 2018. ”