DCB Bank and WWF-India said that they have partnered to conserve the endangered Indus River Dolphin in the Beas Conservation Reserve. WWF-India will implement its Water School Programme which aims to build awareness among students on the need for conservation of natural resources across 30 schools in four districts of Punjab along the Beas Conservation Reserve.
The initiative will strengthen multi-stakeholder leadership and community-led dolphin conservation. Local institutions will spearhead the conservation efforts for the species and work with farmers living in villages on the banks of the river to reduce input use (water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides) in their farms.
Working with the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Government of Punjab, the organizations will implement initiatives around education, awareness and community led conservation to protect the species and its habitat and ensure conservation measures for its long term survival.
Dolphins are an indicator species of healthy river systems. India has two fresh water dolphin species – the Gangetic River Dolphin and the Indus River Dolphin, sub-species of South Asian River Dolphin.
Indus River Dolphins are found in the Indus River system and the River Beas is their only habitat in the country. The river dolphin is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
DCB Bank MD and CEO Murali Natarajan said, “The project will take measures to protect the dolphin’s habitat in the River Beas and create a healthy ecosystem that will enable these beautiful aquatic mammals to thrive in their natural habitat for years to come.”
“Our ‘Beas Mitras’ initiative will help spread awareness among both local communities and students of the dire need to protect the Indus River Dolphin. This initiative will focus on protection of natural water resource for the long term sustainability of the river, communities and the environment.”, he added.
Ravi Singh, Secretary-General and CEO, WWF-India, said, “The partnership will help strengthen existing efforts to conserve the endangered Indus River Dolphin. We believe the partnership will make a positive impact on the species’ population and its habitat. We are also deeply appreciative of the involvement of local communities who are the stewards of our conservation effort in the state.”
WWF-India has been working towards the conservation of the Harike Wetland since 2007 in partnership with the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Government of Punjab. In 2007, a survey was conducted in certain stretches of River Beas by Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Government of Punjab, which established the presence of the Indus River Dolphin in the Beas.
The first organized survey of Indus River Dolphin in the Beas Conservation Reserve (185kms) was jointly conducted with the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Government of Punjab in May 2018. Taking this forward, monthly dolphin surveys will be carried out to establish occurrence and population status along with habitat conservation measures.