How religion is helping save the dolphin in UP

October 29, 2010
By Annant Zanane

Karnavas, UP:  In Karnavas in UP, street plays make frequent and reverent references to the dolphins in the Ganga.

"What's known as the dolphin in English is important to our ecosystem, our culture, but we are harming it," says one of the performers.

Religion and mythology are playing a huge role in helping to save the Gangetic dolphin along a 165 km stretch In UP. Since the conservation effort began in 1990, the dolphin population has doubled. Religion sells.

At another performance on a street corner, students chant excerpts from Valimiki's Ramayan. "With tremendous force, Ganga emerged from Lord Shiva's locks and along with it came several species of fish, animals and the Shishumaar ... the dolphin ... "

Locals are also told that the Baburnama too mentions the Gangetic Dolphin Minor - who is from the same family as the Gangetic Dolphin.

There are about 56-60 Gangetic dolphins now, as compared to about 20 in 1990, " says Dr Sandeep Behera, Senior Coordinator of the Fresh Water Programme for the World Wildlife Fund in India.

The government in UP is now mining ancient texts to collate references to the Ganga in the hope that community support can be drummed up once again through religion and culture.