THE blind Indus dolphin is novel and precious. A study of Lebeck and Ruxburgh in 1801 tells us of South Asian river dolphin. Geographically, they are found only in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The South Asian river dolphin is categorised into two sub-species: the Ganges River dolphin (binomial name platanista gangetics genetic) and the Indus River dolphin (plantanista gangetics minor).

The Ganges River dolphin is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahamputra River in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The Indus River dolphin, which is locally known as Bhulan, is found in Sindh, Pakistan.

The blind Indus dolphin is the rarest species on the earth.This mammal is unique because of its features. The body of the blinddolphin is as smooth as silk, hairless, and pinkish grey. The skin is devoid of mucous secretions and so fragile that is can be easily cut with a slight touch. Its length is between 1.5 and 2.5 metres and carries a maximum weight of 90kg.

It does not have crystal eye lens and for this reason it is blind.

Navigation and hunting under water is entirely different by ecolocation or ecosystem. These characteristics make the blind dolphin distinctive from other dolphins.

In Pakistan the blind dolphin is found between Guddu and Sukkur. In 2001 the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared Indus dolphin as the most 'threatened species' Later, a joint survey conduct in 2006 by World Wide Fund,Pakistan, and the Sindh Wildlife Department counted only 810 dolphins. That survey covered the area of mere 200km from Guddu to Sukkur and water samples were obtained after 10km.

From April 2006 to March 2011 some 45 royal blind dolphins were reported dead. Conservation experts identified these were caused by the use of toxic fishing net, poisonous chemicals used by fishermen, release of hot poisonous water of the Guddu thermal, industrial wastewater and drainage water into the river at Sukkur and construction of hydel-power stations.

The Sindh government must declare a 200km 'confined area' and strictly implement the law against use of poisonous chemicals and nets by greedy fishermen. Industrialists alsoshould be issued warning letters not to let poisonous wastewater in the river.

I personally never saw any of Dolphin Centre, Sukkur, officials stopping a fisherman. Deputy Conservator Ghulam Mohammad Gaddani was reported by Dawn (Jan 8) as having said that that 31 royal blind dolphins died just in a period of five months.

Previous five years' survey from April 2006 to March 2011 puts the total death at 45. This rapid increase in deaths of blind dolphins shows the negligence and failure of the Sindh government, the wildlife department and Dolphin Centre, Sukkur.Severalrequests have been made by the deputy conservator to the authorities concerned for collective efforts but all in vain.On the other hand, the Indian government has declared the Ganges dolphin as National Aquatic Animal. I request the chief minister of Sindh to take action and pass an order to the departments concerned for the preservation of blind Indus dolphin.

M. ARIF SOOMRO Sukkur

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