A grave danger for the Ganges dolphin (Platanista gangetica Roxburgh) in the Subansiri River due to a large hydroelectric project

Abstract

The Ganges River dolphin (Platanista gangetica Roxburgh) of Subansiri River may be in great danger of extinction due to the construction of the 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project, which started in 2006. A recent survey indicates that there are now 29 Ganges dolphins, up from 21 in 2006. It is feared that drastic changes would occur in the downstream hydrology and ecology of the Subansiri River after the installation of the project, scheduled for 2012. The water discharge during a major part of the day in dry months would come down to a meager 6 cumecs from the present average of 450 cumecs (1 cumec is shorthand for cubic meter per second; also cms, or m3/s (m3s–1). Riverine mega fauna like the dolphin would be worst hit by this extremely low discharge. Dumping of an extra amount of sediment from different construction phases has already increased sediment load in the Subansiri downstream and degraded some earlier pockets of dolphin up to 20 km below the dam site. There is reason to believe that high sediment influx might have silted up some of the deeper pools downstream, a preferred habitat of dolphins, forcing them to congregate close to the confluence of the Subansiri.

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Acknowledgments

Financial assistance provided by University Grant Commission, Government of India, in the form of Major Research Project (Project no: F No33-137/207(SR)-2008) to the first author is gratefully acknowledge.

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Correspondence to Debojit Baruah.

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Baruah, D., Hazarika, L.P., Bakalial, B. et al. A grave danger for the Ganges dolphin (Platanista gangetica Roxburgh) in the Subansiri River due to a large hydroelectric project. Environmentalist 32, 85–90 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-011-9375-0

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Keywords

  • Hydroelectric project
  • Ganges River dolphin
  • Conservation