In Varanasi, turtles help clean the Ganga
Large-scale human efforts have been made since 2014 as part of the Namami Gange Programme to clean the Ganga and revitalise the almost 2,600 km river network. Turtles in particular have been playing a significant influence in this.
What is Namami Gange Programme ?
- Partnership: To carry out the Namami Gange Programme, which seeks to clean and revitalise the Ganga river network, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Ministry of Forest joined up with the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
- The Namami Gange Programme has two primary goals that it wants to accomplish:
- Pollution reduction: The program’s main focus is on practical ways to lessen pollution in the Ganga River.
- Conservation and rejuvenation: The Ganga River is intended to be preserved and revitalised to ensure its long-term survival.
- Budget: From 2023 to 2026, the plan will cost Rs. 22,500 crore. This significant sum of money is earmarked to assist the program’s numerous initiatives and projects.
- Community Engagement: The programme aims to interact with a variety of stakeholders, including researchers, tech firms, investors, and locals. The plan seeks to promote cooperation and cooperative efforts for the conservation of the Ganga River by involving these interest groups.
- Mascot: The Namami Gange Program’s mascot is the well-known comic book character Chacha Chaudhary, chosen by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). The goal of this choice is to raise programming awareness and engagement among the general population.
- Clean Ganga Roadshow: In Glasgow, during COP26, a Clean Ganga roadshow was launched. Four chapters were established as a result of the roadshow in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands, and London. These chapters act as hubs for bringing together various interest groups with the Namami Gange Programme and fostering awareness and cooperation.
- Fish conservation: At the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers near Prayagraj Sangam, more than 30,000 seeds of catla, rohu, and mrigal fishes were released to address the decline of large carps in the Ganga River. This programme attempts to restore the fish population and protect the river’s ecology.
- Project Progress: According to the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), 147 out of 341 projects (or 43% of them) have been finished. 61 out of 157 sewage projects (or 39%) have been finished, making up the majority of these finished projects. The efforts made to reduce pollution as a whole are aided by these accomplished projects.
What turtle-related activities are carried out as part of this scheme?
- Turtle Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre: As part of the Namami Gange Programme, a turtle breeding and rehabilitation centre has been running since 2017 in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The facility is dedicated to raising turtles and releasing them into the Ganga River.
- Turtle Species: Around a dozen different kinds of turtles, both herbivorous and carnivorous, are raised at the facility. By helping to remove dead people and flowers that are dumped in the river, these turtles help to maintain the ecosystem.
- Release of turtles: Since 2017, more than 5,000 turtles have been released into the river, and another 1,000 turtles will be released this year. The turtle population and their contribution to the environment of the river are strengthened by this endeavour.
- Turtle egg collection and hatching: A crew from the Forest and Wildlife Department gathers turtle eggs along the Chambal region’s coastline. The following 70 days are spent carefully monitoring these eggs. Only 30 eggs are placed in each wooden box, which is then filled with sand and water to speed up hatching.
- Artificial Hatching: The temperature in the room where the hatching process takes place is kept between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius. In the wooden boxes where the eggs are kept, the eggs are buried in sand, and the hatching occurs in June or July.
- Nurturing Period: The turtles are moved to an artificial pond after hatching, where they are cared for and watched over for two years. Before being released back into the river, this time allows the turtles to mature and expand.
What kind of changes were visible in the environment since the implementation of this programme?
- Water Quality Improvement: The Ganga River’s turtle population has helped to improve the river’s water quality. Turtles contribute by consuming meat and other materials dumped into rivers. As a result, there have been improvements in water quality indicators such as dissolved oxygen (DO), faecal coliform (FC), and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).
- Water Assessment: Positive results have been obtained from water quality assessments performed at several points along the river. According to the pH values, the water is fit for bathing. Numerous areas have seen increased DO, BOD, and FC levels, which point to a beneficial effect on the river’s environment.
What are the possible negative impacts of this scheme?
- Overpopulation: Releasing a lot of turtles can result in overpopulation, particularly if the ecosystem can’t support so many people. As a result, there may be more competition for scarce resources like food and nesting areas, which could lower survival rates and negatively impact population health as a whole.
- Disruption of native species: The release of non-native turtles into an ecosystem has the potential to upset the balance of native species. Native turtle populations may collapse as a result of non-native turtles out-competing or preying on them. On the ecosystem as a whole, this may have cascade impacts that could limit biodiversity and cause ecological imbalance.
- Degradation of the habitat: Turtles have certain habitat needs, such as adequate nesting places and aquatic habitats. If too many turtles are released without regard for the ecosystem’s carrying capacity, habitat destruction may result. Increased foraging may lead to overgrazing of aquatic vegetation, upsetting the ecosystem’s balance, while excessive nesting may harm the environment’s vegetation and affect the structure of the soil.