THT 10 years ago: Freshwater dolphins facing extinction threat

Kathmandu, May 26, 2006

A rare species of river dolphins, habituating certain Terai rivers in the country, is facing extinction, experts say.

A report on the status, distribution and conservation threats of the Ganges River dolphins in the Karnali river was released here today at a regional meeting of conservation and management of river dolphins in Asia.

The report says that the Geruwa river had the minimum population of four such dolphins during a survey in medium and low water seasons.

A maximum of 12 and a minimum of nine dolphins were counted in the Mohana river, a feeder stream of Karnali river during three surveys conducted in high, average and low water seasons during the monsoons.

The report says that the number of dolphins in Geruwa does not fluctuate during different water levels, while the number anddistribution of dolphins in the Mohana river entirely depends upon the water level.

According to the report, habitat alternation by floods, intensive fishing and past development interventions like the Chisapani bridge construction, motorised ferry at Kothaghat, the Rajapur irrigation rehabilitation project and an increase in the intensity of agricultural practices in the area have caused a threat to the freshwater mammals.

Neera Shrestha Pradhan, an officer at WWF Nepal, said the ecosystem of the Karnali river should be considered as a single conservation unit.

‘Trade liberalisation needs enforcement’

Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, minister for finance today pointed out the fact that due to a lack of ‘effective implementation of trade liberalisation initiatives’, no substantial progress has been made in poverty reduction and trade expansion fronts.

Dr Mahat stressed that to make ‘trade liberalisation’ more fruitful, it should be accompanied with effective implementation.

He was addressing a programme on national policy dialogue on “Linkages between Trade, Poverty Reduction: Transmission Mechanism and Impact”, organised jointly by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public) and Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRAD).

He said that if we could link up trade liberalisation initiatives with a drive for equality, it might be productive. What is worrisome is that if the liberalisation policy is not implemented seriously, it would turn out to be a curse, Dr Mahat said.

What is crucial is that we need to make our economy competitive, focusing on capacity building and removing barriers.

Trade liberalisation activities should be participatory with the involvement of disadvantaged groups of people so as to benefit them from this mechanism, he added.

Matthew Kahane, resident representative of UNDP, stressed that trade liberalisation should be linked with rural sector’s development efforts.