"India has inaugurated the 'world's longest river cruise' called the 'Ganga Vilas' plying across a stretch of 3200 kms between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Dibrugarh in Assam taking 51 days.
The 51 day luxury cruise costs an average between Rs 50-55 lakh per person and goes over India's two important river, the Ganges and Brahmaputra where the endangered Gangetic or Ganges river Dolphin can be found.
This cruise also goes over ecologically sensitive aredas and experts believe that they will increase the river traffic and pollution, threatening the endangered Dolphins.
The Ganges River Dolphin, which is under threat due to the Ganga Vilas cruise, according to experts, is listed under Schedule I of India’s Wildlife (Protection), Act, 1972.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed great expectations for the cruise and deemed it a "landmark moment" signifying a "new age for tourism in India."
Contrary to this the Congress General Secretary, Jairam Ramesh has labelled the cruise "obscene," and only "for the filthy rich."
Jairam Ramesh had declared the Gangetic Dolphin as India's National Aquatic animal in 2010 and also received flak for it. The then Union Environment and Forest Minister, Ramesh had said:
"Like we have tiger as a national animal and peacock as a national bird, we have declared dolphins as a national aquatic animal as it represents the health of the rivers, particularly Ganga in the country,"
Jairam Ramesh Labels MV Ganga Vilas 'Obscene'
Several environmental and wildlife experts have expressed their concern that the cruise may cause irreparable damage to the dolphins' habitat and ecosystem.
In 2009, when Ramesh was re-elected to the Indian Parliament under the Congress administration, he was given responsibility of the Environment and Forests as Minister of State.
In the same year, he represented India at the 2009 Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Taking to Twitter to express his outrage at the Centre's decision to move forward with the cruise despite warnings from conservationists and environmental experts.
He attached an article about the danger of the river cruise to the gangetic dolphin and wrote, "The river cruise on the Ganga unveiled by the PM is obscene! Who can afford Rs. 50 lakh per night except the filthy rich? Ganga is still neither Nirmal (pure) nor Aviral (uninterrupted). Now this Tamasha will also endanger India's national aquatic mammal — the Gangetic dolphin."
Endangered Dolphins Under Further Threat by Luxury Cruise
India is home to two different species of river dolphins, the Ganges River Dolphin and the Indus River Dolphin.
"There are approximately 2,500-3,000 Ganges river dolphins left living in the wild," the most recent available report from 2019 tells us.
The gangetic river dolphin is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Schedule I of India's Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.
It is illegal for the species to be hunted or traded either domestically or internationally.
The MV Ganga Vilas will pass through a confluence of the rivers Ganga and Gomti, which, thanks to deep water and slower currents is a safe habitat for the river dolphins.
River dolphins in India are already under a heavy threat of poaching, water pollution and excessive water extraction.
The species is more-or-less blind and rely very heavily on the echolocation clicks for both navigation and foraging for food. The added noise pollution in the water caused by cruise ships would be detrimental to their existence, say experts.
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