It could be seen from a few yards away. The long, dried leaves of Golpata -- a plant native to the Sundarbans -- wayed in the late autumn breeze revealing cut outs of Irrawaddy and Ganges River Dolphins at the Liberation War Museum. These species, both considered globally endangered, are the last two remaining freshwater dolphin species in Asia that call the Sundarbans their home.
And to create awareness on their plight and the need to conserve these species, a three-day long International Freshwater Dolphin Day was celebrated till October 27 at the Liberation War Museum in Agargaon.
Apart from the usual first day of inauguration programmes targeted towards stakeholders in the government, donor groups and other agencies, the fair catered more towards the younger generation rather than anyone else.
The entire museum premises had been lined with exhibits spreading awareness on the habitat of the freshwater dolphins, their threats and the need to conserve these species.
School students by the hundreds thronged the venue, walking through a maze photo exhibits showcasing images of dolphins in Sundarbans, a bioscope and its owner singing songs of the forest, and sculptures of the two dolphin-species.
Curated with acute attention to detail by artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin and his group, the Dolphin Day celebrations are part of a project titled “Expanding the Protected Area System to Incorporate Important Aquatic Ecosystems (EPASIIAE) Project” initiated a few years back by Bangladesh Forest Department and UNDP-Bangladesh.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh along with CNRS started implementing the outreach, capacity building and management plan component of the project from June 2018.
Raquibul Amin, the country representative of IUCN Bangladesh, estimated a turnover of nearly 3,000 students alone in the three-day event.
‘’Our aim is to bridge the disconnect between the urban and rural youth. We tried to bring a little bit of the jungle into Dhaka. And we hoped these activities would make the children curious, engage their creative faculty and most of all we wanted the children to leave with a desire to learn more about dolphins,’’ said Raquibul Amin.
‘’If a child left the Dolphin Day celebrations with a desire to view dolphins in the wild, then I would consider our job done,’’ he added.
Apart from the photo exhibits, visitors mostly students also took part in an arts and crafts exhibit, kite festival, a puppet show, a theatre production and clay-modelling sessions.
And people came, by the hundreds braving the rain to be a part of a different kind of a weekend in Dhaka.
Some looked for real dolphins, others got mesmerised by images and sculptures of creatures below the waters. Most of all, everyone left with a little bit more understanding on the freshwater dolphins of Bangladesh and its last vestiges.