River dolphins in the Ganges River are facing extinction due to human fecal matter, pollution and loss of habitat. This species of dolphin can only live in fresh water and are mostly blind. They navigate by making very high-pitched sounds which bounce off of objects and then the dolphins use the incoming sounds to form images in their minds.
In 1982, there may have been four to five thousand in
India, but today that number is likely to be less than 2,000. Development projects like dams, and embankments within the Ganges river system have altered the natural aquatic habitat so much it is difficult for the river dolphins to survive. Females give birth to one calf every several years, so it makes a full recovery challenging considering all the human-made obstacles placed in their path.
All the habitat loss and disruption speaks to a simple but profound fact: the human population in India has grown dramatically. The area around Varanasi where the dolphins live and nearby, is about 1.7 million humans. In 1950, this number may have been just 348,000.
Since 2001, the rate of population growth has been an estimated 17%. Additionally, about three million tourists visit each year, very much due to the fact Varanasi is considered one of the holiest Hindu cities.
The amount of sewage dumped into the river there is enormous: ‘The BBC reports that there is so much sewage flowing into the Ganges that it’s hard for fish to live, and people who bathe themselves in the sacred water could find themselves with some very bad illnesses indeed.’ (Source: TG Daily)
It would seem a religious or spiritual practice would be more about what humans do in physical terms on this Earth, than merely conducting rituals and referencing sacred books. The river dolphins need to be considered within the definition of what is sacred, because they are a part of Life. There doesn’t seem to be much point in being religious, if that practice can’t generate solutions to practical problems.