South Asian River Dolphins – commonly known as Ganges Dolphins – have started coming back to various ghats of Kolkata, thanks to lockdown and the corresponding low pollution of the river.
These are the only freshwater dolphins known to the world and are “critically endangered”. Ganges dolphin is also the national aquatic animal of India.
The Ganges dolphins are found in Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The reason for their recent sightings in Kolkata has been attributed to an improvement in Ganges water quality resulting from suspension of human activities due to the lockdown which is in place to contain Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Environmentalists feel that it is very unlikely for these mammals to visit the waters of Kolkata unless there is a marked improvement of water quality. Environmental activist Biswajit Roy Chowdhury – who recently spotted a couple of dolphins in Babughat — was quoted in a report in The Times of India saying that the improvement of water quality is one of the main reasons that the dolphins are coming back. The dolphins are usually seen at Hooghly which is about 40 kilometres from Kolkata and their coming near Kolkata is being said to be extremely rare.
Sightings of dolphins have been a reason of considerable enjoyment not only for green activists of the city but also for the photographers. These dolphins could be seen at various ghats of Kolkata 30 years back, but started disappearing from Kolkata as increased human activity polluted the waters.