Pollution takes toll, fish do the disappearing act

PALAK NANDI, AHMEDABAD NEWSLINE, JULY 4, 2006
NARMADA : Number of fish in Bharuch stretch drops by 75 pc; industrial units to blame: environmental activists.

Ahmedabad, July 4: ROHU, bekti, mahasheer, hilsa? Plenty of fish in the sea? That there may be, but the Narmada in Bharuch district seems to be running out. Fisheries Department figures show that the number of fish in this stretch has gone down by as much as 75 per cent over the last five to six years. In fact, some species of fish have disappeared, causing concern to environmental activists.
The reduction in catch is said to be the worst in the country. Some fish that are sold commercially — kalbasu, minor carp and bekti — have disappeared from the river waters for quite some time now, according to Fisheries Department data. The reason? Industrial pollution in Ankleshwar and Panoli.
The drop in catch has hit fishermen and their families badly. And while the GPCB might say it’s ‘‘monitoring’’ the problem, clearly that’s not enough.
A senior official of the Fisheries Department, on conditions of anonymity, says there has been a steady dip in the number of fish in the river over the past six years. ‘‘This belt was supposed be rich in terms of fish but that’s a thing of the past now. At present, the situation is so bad that some species seem to have disappeared,’’ he says.
As compared to figures of other districts or states, the drop here (recorded by Bharuch district office of Fisheries Department) is the largest.
Environmentalists say the situation in this belt is ‘‘particularly bad’’ because of the fact that most pesticide units in Ankleshwar and Panoli dump their untreated effluent into the river. The worst hit is the stretch near Amla Khadi, infamous because of the high industrial pollution.
The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has recently started ‘‘intense monitoring’’ in this area. ‘‘The GPCB has already implemented a specific action plan for this area and we have also undertaken intense monitoring of waste generated by industrial units and its disposal,’’ GPCB member secretary Sanjiv Tyagi says.
However, much remains to be done. While regular monitoring is carried out, the GPCB does not collect samples or monitor the flow of effluent at night. Environmentalists say most units release their untreated effluent into the river only at night.
Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti says that the ecology os the river has been affected because of the mixing of salty water and pollutants. ‘‘Fish dying because of severe pollution and low catch is a major problem. This has been happening for seven years, but the problem’s worsened now,’’ says Prajapati, adding that many fishermen in the area have been left with little choice but to change their profession or turn

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