The total population of Indus Dolphins, numbering perhaps 500 individuals, is subdivided by barrages into five or six subpopulations. At least two of these are so small (fewer than 20 animals) that they have little chance of survival past the next few decades. If dispersal occurs at all, because of barrages it will apparently only be downstream, causing a net loss to upstream subpopulations. The subpopulation in Sindh Dolphin Reserve, between Sukkur and Guddu barrages, is relatively large and apparently well-protected. However, the small size of the Reserve, its geographical position near the downstream end of the species range, and the political and economic instability of the area, taken together, mean that this subpopulation is at considerable risk. The need for additional reserves upstream of Guddu Barrage, to improve the prospects of the species' survival, is clear.
The subpopulation downstream of Taunsa and Panjnad barrages is unquestionably the largest in Punjab, and its protection should be a high priority of the Punjab Government. Apart from the obvious need to prevent both direct capturing and accidental killing, the Dolphins' aquatic habitat must be carefully safeguarded. Any additional withdrawal of water from the Indus and its tributaries, whether for agriculture or industry, would be inimical to Dolphin conservation. Moreover, any project involving changes to the river system's hydrography and water-quality, even if expected to have no net effect on discharge levels in the main channels, should be evaluated critically for the potential impact on Dolphins.
It is important to emphasize that responsibility for the fate of Indus Dolphins and the many other organisms affected by major water-development schemes, is shared by a number of countries in addition to Pakistan. We hope that foreign governments, in their efforts to support Pakistan's economic development and relieve poverty in the subcontinent by assisting in the planning and financing of water megaprojects, do not in the process contribute to the impoverishment of the client country's, and in turn the world's, ecological heritage.