To protect the endangered Gangetic river dolphins, West Bengal will soon have the country's first community reserve for the mammal.
A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the State Wildlife Board yesterday.
"A committee is being formed to examine in what way the community reserve would be set up in the Hooghly river between Malda and Sundarbans. We'll take all stakeholders together in this initiative. It is expected that it would be ready within a year's time," state Chief Wildlife Warden Azam Zaidi told news agency PTI.
The stretch of the Ganges river, also known as Hooghly in West Bengal, is roughly 500 km long and it passes through the densely populated Kolkata before merging with the Bay of Bengal in the Sundarbans.
He said the Wildlife Protection Act had provisions to create such community reserve for protection of flora and fauna.
"The stretch of the river is not within a forest or a sanctuary so it is very important to involve all stakeholders for protecting dolphins. We want to spread awareness, control noise pollution and have cleaner water for conserving dolphins," Mr Zaidi, also the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), said.
Forest department officials said they would also conduct a census to estimate the population of dolphins, India's national aquatic animal.
Direct killing, habitat fragmentation due to construction of dams and barrages, indiscriminate fishing and pollution of rivers are some of the major threats affecting the species.
Hundreds of fishermen are dependent on the river for survival.
"We cannot deny them their fishing rights and therefore the focus would be on awareness," forest officials said. The number of dolphin is estimated to be less than 2,000 in the country.
Often known as the 'Tiger of the Ganges', the river dolphin is an indicator animal, which has the same position in a river ecosystem as a tiger in a forest.