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Environment

Squeezing a river dry

The Kulsi river in Assam is a habitat of the endangered Ganges river dolphin, but illegal sand mining and the existence and construction of bridges are altering the water-flow regime, posing a serious threat to the aquatic mammal and to the riparian communities that depend on the Kulsi for their livelihoods.

 

A Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in the Kulsi river (40 km way from Guwahati), the unique habitat of the species in Kamrup district, Assam.
A Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in the Kulsi river (40 km way from Guwahati), the unique habitat of the species in Kamrup district, Assam.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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A veterinary official with a female dolphin that was found dead on the bank of the Kulsi on March 2, 2009.
A veterinary official with a female dolphin that was found dead on the bank of the Kulsi on March 2, 2009.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Manual sand mining on the Kulsi river using country boats, in 2018. Most households of villages close to the river are dependent on fishing and manual sand mining at notified sand quarries of the river for their livelihood.
Manual sand mining on the Kulsi river using country boats, in 2018. Most households of villages close to the river are dependent on fishing and manual sand mining at notified sand quarries of the river for their livelihood.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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The sand being offloaded from boats and taken to trucks waiting on the banks of the Kulsi. The price of one cubic metre of Kulsi sand increased from Rs.600 to Rs.700 about five years ago to Rs.1,600 to Rs.1,800 a cubic metre recently.
The sand being offloaded from boats and taken to trucks waiting on the banks of the Kulsi. The price of one cubic metre of Kulsi sand increased from Rs.600 to Rs.700 about five years ago to Rs.1,600 to Rs.1,800 a cubic metre recently.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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A rare sighting of a dolphin mother and calf in the Kulsi on June 9, 2018. Abdul Wakid, an internationally recognised river dolphin expert, said that 25 dolphins were counted in the Kulsi in 2021 as were three deaths, which was the highest number of deaths recorded in the past 17 years in the river.
A rare sighting of a dolphin mother and calf in the Kulsi on June 9, 2018. Abdul Wakid, an internationally recognised river dolphin expert, said that 25 dolphins were counted in the Kulsi in 2021 as were three deaths, which was the highest number of deaths recorded in the past 17 years in the river.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Veterinary officials examining the dead dolphin, which was 7.5 feet (2.3 m) long and weighed around 80 kg. The Assam government declared the river dolphin the “State Aquatic Animal” in 2008 and the Central government notified it as the “National Aquatic Animal” in 2009. The freshwater aquatic mammal, which indicates the health of an aquatic system the same way the tiger indicates the health of a forest, is protected as a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Veterinary officials examining the dead dolphin, which was 7.5 feet (2.3 m) long and weighed around 80 kg. The Assam government declared the river dolphin the “State Aquatic Animal” in 2008 and the Central government notified it as the “National Aquatic Animal” in 2009. The freshwater aquatic mammal, which indicates the health of an aquatic system the same way the tiger indicates the health of a forest, is protected as a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Veterinary officials examining the dead dolphin, which was 7.5 feet (2.3 m) long and weighed around 80 kg. The Assam government declared the river dolphin the “State Aquatic Animal” in 2008 and the Central government notified it as the “National Aquatic Animal” in 2009. The freshwater aquatic mammal, which indicates the health of an aquatic system the same way the tiger indicates the health of a forest, is protected as a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Veterinary officials examining the dead dolphin, which was 7.5 feet (2.3 m) long and weighed around 80 kg. The Assam government declared the river dolphin the “State Aquatic Animal” in 2008 and the Central government notified it as the “National Aquatic Animal” in 2009. The freshwater aquatic mammal, which indicates the health of an aquatic system the same way the tiger indicates the health of a forest, is protected as a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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A dried up and exposed section of the bed of the Kulsi river on January 27.
A dried up and exposed section of the bed of the Kulsi river on January 27.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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The large square bases of the pillars of a railway bridge that is under construction on the Kulsi. The inadequate spacing between pillars does not allow for the free flow of water.
The large square bases of the pillars of a railway bridge that is under construction on the Kulsi. The inadequate spacing between pillars does not allow for the free flow of water.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Fishermen pay annual licence fees to the Revenue Department so that they can carry out fishing activities on the river stretch from the Batha confluence up to Gumi and the four major wetlands along this stretch. With the Kulsi river flow falling, the productivity of the wetlands in riparian areas has drastically declined.
Fishermen pay annual licence fees to the Revenue Department so that they can carry out fishing activities on the river stretch from the Batha confluence up to Gumi and the four major wetlands along this stretch. With the Kulsi river flow falling, the productivity of the wetlands in riparian areas has drastically declined.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Mechanised sand extraction from the Kulsi. There is a high demand for Kulsi river sand as it is not mixed with silt or tiny stone particles and does not require sieving, which saves time and labour costs in construction work. The mosquito nets used to trap the sand mixed with water sucked out from the river with pumps do the sieving.
Mechanised sand extraction from the Kulsi. There is a high demand for Kulsi river sand as it is not mixed with silt or tiny stone particles and does not require sieving, which saves time and labour costs in construction work. The mosquito nets used to trap the sand mixed with water sucked out from the river with pumps do the sieving.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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A bamboo structure used to store sand extracted mechanically using suction pumps located just below a watch tower of the Forest Department near the Kulsi-Chaygaon confluence bears testimony to the illegal unsustainable sand mining taking place in the area, photographed on January 27.
A bamboo structure used to store sand extracted mechanically using suction pumps located just below a watch tower of the Forest Department near the Kulsi-Chaygaon confluence bears testimony to the illegal unsustainable sand mining taking place in the area, photographed on January 27.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Effluent coming out through holes in the boundary wall of an industrial unit and entering the waters of the Batha near the confluence of the Kulsi and the Batha.
Effluent coming out through holes in the boundary wall of an industrial unit and entering the waters of the Batha near the confluence of the Kulsi and the Batha.Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar
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Map
Map
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