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Global Ideas

Saving Bangladesh’s river dolphins

In Bangladesh, the battle for resources and the construction of dams and levees are depleting fish stocks and pushing river dolphins to the brink. Now, local communities are fighting back.

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Project goal: increasing biodiversity in the wetlands, protecting the Ganges river dolphin and several freshwater fish species, improving livelihoods of local communities

Duration: 2009 to 2015

Size: pilot project in 34 wetlands in the region of Pabna with a total size of 1,308 hectares

Key species: Ganges river dolphin and other indigenous fresh water fish including the Chitala Chitala, Olive barb (Puntius sarana), the Pabo catfish (Ompok pabo) or the Stinging catfish (Heteropneustes fossilis)

The Ganges river dolphin lives in one of the world’s most densely populated and impoverished regions - the Ganges river delta in Bangladesh. The country is prone to flooding and rising sea levels. Authorities are fighting back by raising levees, dredging canals and pumping water. To make matters worse, the battle for resources and pollution are destroying the country's rivers. It all has a huge impact on the region’s biodiversity. It’s not just the endangered Ganges dolphin, known as shishu in Bangladesh, but also fresh water fish who are in danger of losing their habitat. Fish catch has declined by nearly 75 percent in regions such as Pabna, spelling disaster for the livelihoods of fishing communities. Now, Germany’s international development and aid organization, GIZ, is working with local communities to set up three new protected zones for the Ganges river dolphin. The success of the project depends on locals respecting the new borders and fishermen taking an active role in conservation.

A film by Carmen Meyer

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