The Ganges Basin, one of the largest river basins in the world, drains an area of approximately 814,400 km2, spans three countries, and also has one of the largest human population densities. Fish is an important element in the diet of people in India and particularly in Bangladesh, where religious beliefs restrict the availability of animal protein.

Most existing information on the Ganges basin is country specific. Integrated management of resources within the basin as a whole is, however, required. A true understanding of the status of fish resources for communities within the basin would assist in future planning. In particular, the scope of fisheries resources in the river headwater areas is completely unknown. It is necessary to assemble this data in order to facilitate understanding within the basin as a whole.


Existing and new data was collected and compiled from upland and lowland sites in the Ganges basin and reviewed for India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Hydrological records and changes were also examined and fisheries developments recorded. Through detailed observations at selected sites in the upper, middle and lower regions of the basin, details of the population characteristics and status of fish stocks were established. A dynamic model for management of floodplain fish stocks incorporated these data, and enabled recommendations for fisheries management and estimates of benefits from the fisheries to be made.


The review (see FTR) described differences in the ecology and fishing practices of fisheries in upland coldwater regions and lowland floodplain regions. Socio-religious pressures significantly influence access to, and participation in, the fisheries of the Ganges. Examination of the status of fish resources indicated that the contribution of major carps has declined significantly over time (e.g. in Allahabad they fell from 43.5% of the catch in 1966 to only 13% in 1993). All events in the river are linked to hydrology and rainfall and changes in the fisheries show a direct correlation to changes in these factors. Considerable natural variation thus exists in fish stocks (see also R5030 and R6178 that developed predictive models based on hydrological and other parameters for fisheries in rivers and lakes, respectively). Human interventions, such as dams and pollution have also had significant effects on fish stocks, and harmful fishing practices (e.g. dynamite) also occur.

Results were used by Bangladesh/India Joint Water Commission as part of their discussion on water-sharing agreements over the Ganges, and were presented to representatives of the committee for the Ganga Action Plan, India. This project also contributed to DFID/ World Bank development project design of Fourth Fisheries Project - implemented 1999 to 2006, Bangladesh.