JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:: 22/05/2015

Why dolphins no longer jump out of Moradabad's Ramganga

 Meerut: The presence of dolphins, according to experts, is an indication of a river's good health. Going by this yardstick, the health of the Ramganga river has deteriorated sharply over the last decade. Gangetic dolphins, which were a common sight in Moradabad as recently as ten years ago, have disappeared completely from the area's ecosystem.


"Ramganga passes through Moradabad. If you speak to locals they will tell you that dolphins could be seen in the city. They would be regularly spotted jumping out of water. But now they have vanished from the area's ecosystem. Only turtles are left here. They, too, are only at points where the river enters and leaves the town," said Garima Dimri, project manager for rivers, wetlands and water policy with World Wildlife Federation (WWF), India. 

Dimri said as human settlements expanded near the river, the habitat for freshwater wildlife shrunk over the last few years. "Moradabad sustains itself almost exclusively on groundwater. This means that residents are drawing water from the river every day. This daily extraction of water has been putting a huge strain on the river, which remains dry and lean for most of the summer anyway," she said. 

According to her, the primary reason for the river's poor health is the absence of a sewage treatment plant in the city. "Since there is no sewage treatment facility, nearly all of the city's waste goes into the river. The flow of the river needs to be monitored. Moradabad, also known as the brass city, is a major industrial hub and industrial effluents pollute the river. This makes it extremely difficult for the river to sustain life. Dolphins, like lions and tigers, are an indicative species. Where there are dolphins, the ecosystem is healthy. The fact that dolphins have disappeared means the condition of the river has been deteriorating," Dimri added. 

Among other reasons behind the worsening of the river's biodiversity is riverside farming. "The land is obviously very fertile, but excessive farming has shrunk the river. We have spoken to farmers and locals and asked them to become 'Ramganga mitras', or friends of the river. We are trying to help them develop techniques that limit the harm done to the river," Dimri said. 

Dr Seema Mahendra, a local conservationist who is also a 'Ramganga mitra', said, "I was born and brought up in Moradabad and I grew up next to the river. My father used to take me to the riverfront and I have seen the river in a healthy state. The bank used to extend over a long distance. Several species, not just dolphins, could be seen in the river. I have seen the condition of the river deteriorate gradually." 

However, there is still hope as the administration has acknowledged the problem and joined hands with NGOs in conservation efforts. "We started the Ramganga Bachao Abhiyaan in 2013. The Nagar Nigam, Moradabad Development Authority and Awas Vikas Parishad have adopted waterbodies near the river. We have also started developing water harvesting measures so that the pressure on groundwater is eased. We need to take stronger measures to tackle disposal of plastic e-waste. A sewage treatment plan is also under construction. Work had stopped after a pipe at the site had caved in during the rains a few months ago and three lives were lost in the incident. However, the work has now resumed under a new contractor," Moradabad district magistrate Deepak Agarwal said. 

The DM added that conservation efforts need to be streamlined though. "There may be several reasons affecting the health of the river but we have conducted studies to see what the primary cause is. This is to ensure that we prioritize work and make significant inroads in the conservation effort. I am very hopeful that things will improve since people have also realised that something is seriously wrong with the river. This endeavour can only become a success with the people's participation," he said.