An endangered river species, they scamper and play unaware of the danger to their lives in the Ganga barrage waters
Words: Ambica Gulati
Their long beak-like noses sticking out, they seemed to be coming towards us. Suddenly they disappeared from view. And then a tail emerged from far. Dark brown, they would have been mistaken for the water, if the flesh was not so firm and round. They went in and out, first nose out, then in, tail out and in. We were watching the play of the dolphins at the Ganga barrage in Narora. Fascinated, we kept trying to count the number we were seeing. Maybe it was four but maybe it was six. With the rapid in and out movement, it was difficult to decide.
We were on our way home from Badaun. And had stopped for some drinks and snacks. There were ghats on one side of the barrage where people normally did religious rituals, prayers and, maybe, some meditation. The Ganga flowed rhythmically unaware of the life around her banks. On the side of the road, people were selling bamboo stools, moodas, as we call them. Shops with religious items and snacks also were lined on the side. This was the side for humans. On the other side, the dolphins lived.
A shopkeeper told us that we could even take a boat ride and watch the dolphins up close. They were an endangered species and the villagers in the area had participated in their conservation. This caught our attention, considering that Gangetic River dolphin (Platanista Gangetica) was declared the National Aquatic Animal in 2009.
Dolphins have the power to cure nightmares, he added, their teeth can be kept on the person as an amulet. Before the conservation movement, fishermen in the area used to extract the oil as it can cure skin problems. The meat was used as bait. The conversation went on to reveal that there had been an extensive campaign by WWF and Government of Uttar Pradesh to save the dying species. Just like everyone wants to save the Ganga, they want to save the dolphin, he said. The campaign was ‘My Ganga, My Dolphin’.
“The dolphins are our friends,” he exclaimed. “People come to watch them and then rest for some drinks at my shop.” That was reason enough to love the gentle creatures.
The main cause for their death had been the use of pesticides, industrial radiation and pollution. All the waste went into the river polluted the residence of the dolphins and they died.
Sadhus, villagers and fishermen had been slowly educated on how and why to save the friendly dolphin. The shopkeeper was trying to find a sadhu who had been part of the campaign but didn’t find him.
So our conversation continued, as we took another round of cold drinks and chips. The dolphin is blind and you can hear it calling out. It emits ultrasonic sounds to catch the prey. The home of the dolphins stretches from Narora to Brijghat, almost 86 km, on the Ganga belt.
Once the sun goes high, it is difficult to find them. So while it was still bearable, we went for another round to see them play. They looked a dark brown but are actually dark grey in colour. Now, the number was certainly four. And we carried their rapid, playful movement in our hearts back home.
How to reach Narora from Delhi
Narora is near Bulandshahar and can be an easy two hours and 30 minutes drive (around 140km). Narora is more famous for atomic power plant. There is more to see there such as parks and temples. To know what else you can see, click here https://www.upecotourism.in/NaroraBulandsahar.html