Recently, a video was shared by Indian Forest Services (IFS) officer Akash Deep Badhwan of a pair of dolphins enjoying in the water in the Ganga at Meerut, Utter Pradesh. The post was accompanied by the following caption:-
“DYK? Ganges River Dolphin, our National Aquatic Animal once lived in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system is now endangered. They live in fresh water and are practically blind, with small slits as eyes. Was fortunate to spot these in Ganges in Meerut.” Further, in a series of tweets the officer also added that, “officially discovered in 1801, these creatures are practically blind, with small slits for eyes. They hunt using ultrasonic sounds to track other fishes in the vicinity. Usually solo, sometimes they are found in small groups, especially Mother and calf. Their habitat is largely tracts of Ganges where fish is aplenty and water currents are slow. Here dense human population has lead to fishermen catching them along with fish and become “bycatch”. However they are still hunted at times for their meat and oil by few!”
Ganges River Dolphin, our National Aquatic Animal once lived in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system is now endangered. They live in fresh water and are practically blind, with small slits as eyes.
Was fortunate to spot these in Ganges in Meerut. pic.twitter.com/BKMj8LqaIi
— Akash Deep Badhawan, IFS (@aakashbadhawan) April 27, 2020
Within hours of being shared, this video spread like wildfire as it was watched and re-shared by many across social media. Apart from being shared by social media users, the video was also shared by multiple news outlets and web pages. Most of the people shared it with optimism, citing the healing of nature during the lock down as a reason behind this, as most people stay home and river pollution lessens.
#Video | Ganges River Dolphin were spotted today in Meerut. Our National Aquatic Animal once lived in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system is now endangered. The #lockdown has been a respite for aquatic animals.
— The Federal (@TheFederal_in) April 27, 2020
The post has also been widely shared on Facebook by multiple users.
While the video of the dolphins definitely belongs to the Ganga at Meeut, the accompanying information with which it is being shared is false. Contrary to what is being claimed by most users about the appearance of the dolphins being the result of the reduced water pollution and movement of human due to the current lock down, this video is actually about a year old, according to Meerut DFO Aditi Sharma.
Ms. Sharma believes that it would be a hurried claim to say that the water in the Ganga at Meerut has cleared out because of the current lock down. The dolphins have been living here for some years now, and even their offspring have been spotted in the water. There is currently no scientific measurement of how suitable this water is for the dolphins. There is no data with the forest department currently about how much the water in the Ganga has cleaned up since the lock down.
According to the officer, there are over 35 dolphins in the water there. The water could’ve cleared up in the Ganga, like it has been reported in Haridwar, but it is not connected to these dolphins as they have living here for a few years now. She added that this video was shot about a year ago by an under-trainee, Mr. Akash Deep Badhwan, who has now shared the video.
The Dolphin is the National Aquatic Animal of India but is endangered now. This has been caused due to high human density along the Ganga causing destruction of habitat, mistakenly being caught by fishermen with other fish while also being poached for their oil and other parts. While the sight of the Dolphins enjoying in the Ganga was definitely mesmerizing, the claims that this a recent video and the sighting was a result of the current lock down are false.
In an interview recently with Times of India, Biswajit Roy Chaudhary, who is a senior environmental activist, shared that he spotted a couple of dolphins at Babughat in Kolkata. He said that due to the nationwide lock down and lesser human activities, the quality of water has improved drastically and this is “one of the main reasons that the dolphins are coming back”. These Dolphins, who used to be regular visitors to Kolkata’s ghats have been spotted in the area after some 30 years. A number of reports have surfaced recently claiming that water pollution in the Hoogly river has reduced significantly because of the lock down and several other endangered animals have also been spotted in Kolkata’s outskirts.