Bandipora: The misfortune that has come to trout fish due to the construction of the 330-MW Kishanganga hydropower project will endure for still more time, as government schemes meant to rejuvenate them haven’t been executed yet.
The Kishanganga power project which began to be constructed in 2007 is nearing completion, after missing various deadlines. Officials say it may be inaugurated in the coming months.
The hydroelectric project is located on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of the river Jhelum, in Bandipora district. Construction of the 37-metre-high concrete-faced rockfill dam and an underground powerhouse is complete. The NHPC (National Hydro Power Corporation) is now dredging the Madhumati and Bonaar streams so that they can retain the water which would be diverted from Kishanganga (Neelam) river in Gurez via tunnels.
According to officials, the adverse impact on trout fish due to the dam construction in Gurez and the alteration and widening of Bonar and Madhumati rivulets in Bandipora, was to be negated by compensation projects which involved the construction of fish hatcheries.
The state administration in 2016 said, “To enhance fish production in the state, the government has taken up five fish development projects in Chenab, Jhelum, Kishanganga, Suru and Sindh rivers with Rs 16.25 crore provided by NHPC as compensation for affected water bodies in these rivers.”
For Bandipora division, Rs 6.13 crore was given for fish development projects in Gurez and Athwatoo. However, after more than a year, the construction work on these projects is yet to be started in Bandipora district.
Official sources here in Bandipora said that they have “recently got the approval to execute the project”. Previously, the ministry had informed that it was executing work in Athwatoo and other areas of the district, but Bandipora’s assistant director for fisheries said: “The Athwatoo project is a district project, not part of the compensation project.”
The compensation project consists of the construction of hatcheries, feed mills, and other scientific infrastructure for fish production. “The produced fish will be released in the rivulets to revive the production and compensate the loss,” the assistant director for fisheries said. In Bandipora, he informed, the project unit will be constructed in Shogbaba, near Arin, where already a fish hatchery is operational.
“We will be enhancing the same hatchery for trout production,” the officer said.
Units have to be constructed in Gurez area as well, where the trout has “suffered tremendously due to dam construction in Kishanganga river,” the officer said.
He said that the widening and dredging of Boanar and Madhumati rivulets has impacted trout fish, but “it’s minimal, as the fish mostly move upwards during winters.”
In 2012, the Fisheries Department lodged a complaint with the police after thousands of trout fish were found dead in river Madhumati. The Fisheries Department alleged that the fish had died due to discharge of turbid water into the river from various operational units of the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), which was building the Kishenganga project. Scientific tests at NET Srinagar found dangerous PH levels in the water of Madhumati.
Work on the compensation project for trout fish is expected to start in December. Assistant director for fisheries, Sajad Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader, “Till recently we were not getting approval from the higher authorities due to ‘unspecific’ reasons, but now, when we have the administrative approval, we may start the work within 15 days.”