Mineral excavation, toxic chemicals pushing fish species to ‘extinction’

Mineral excavation, toxic chemicals pushing fish species to ‘extinction’
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‘Extraction affected breeding, feeding grounds of native species; most ‘vanished’ in Pulwama, Shopian streams

SHOPIAN: Excessive excavation of streams, rivulets, rampant use of chemicals; fertilisers and pesticides in orchards, use of bleaching powder has put the fish population on the verge of extinction in south Kashmir’s district Shopian and Pulwama.
The streams in these twin districts once had abundant population of fishes and fingerlings which are now witnessing an alarming decline.
Rampant excavation of boulders, gravel and sand from various streams and rivulets like Romshi and Rambiara, Nalai-Parigam, Laar rivulet, Naalai-Draabi, Sangloo, and many other streams have threatened many fingerling species. Fayaz Ahmad, a resident of Chewaklan who resides besides Romshi rivulet, said that it was a common practice in his village to catch fingerlings and fishes from shallow waters of Romshi, particularly during winters.
He said that different varieties of small fishes were found in Romshi in abundance and villagers in droves used to catch them in winters, adding that excessive digging of boulders, gravel and sand from many areas of Romshi has brought Guran (fingerling) population almost to near extinction.
He added that these days villagers return in despair after they fail to catch sufficient quantity of fingerlings “despite spending a whole day”.
Besides the excavation of minerals from streets, rampant use of fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, weedicides and insecticides were among the reasons for the damaging the food and shelter and breeding beds of these species.
Rambiara rivulet which was famous for raising fingerling on a vast area of more than 50 kilometres is also witnessing decline of fishes in it. Experts said that massive use of fertilisers, fungicide and bleaching powder used by thieves (poachers) is the major reason for the decline of fishes.
An officer from fisheries department in Shopian said that the major river beds have been auctioned by geology and mining department which destroyed the homes of the fingerlings. “Majority of people in the district use excessive use of toxic chemicals and fertilisers used by orchardists in orchards is also a reason for the extinction of fingerlings,” he said.
Aijaz Ahmad, a resident of Gudura said species like Ram-e Gurun (Botia birdia), Aar-gurum (Triplophysa Kashmirensis) and Unyor Gurun (Glyptothorax Kashmirensis) were found in the stream of his village. He said that even on occasions they used to see fishes in densely human habitations.
Catching fishes was a loved pastime for many youth in the village, he said adding that most of the species have vanished from many streams flowing through the area.
Assistant director fisheries for Pulwama, Shabir Ahmad said that there has been significant decrease in fingerling/fish species from unreserved streams of Pulwama. “Extraction of minerals has affected breeding and feeding grounds of native species of fish,” he said adding that they have a buffer stock available but only in upper reaches.
Bleaching powder is also a role in causing a decrease because it changes the concentration of dissolved oxygen in water.
Assistant director fisheries, Shopian, Muhammad Aslam told that there were many aspects responsible for extinction of fingerlings. “First the massive use of fertilisers and fungicides/pesticides/insecticides. Then, the auctioning of minerals of rivulets and use of bleaching powder by thieves (poachers),” he said.
“There isn’t any protected area now, the Rambiara has been given on contract to mining and how can we stop people from using toxic chemicals in their orchards,” he said adding that people must know the importance of existence of other species as well. “We protested the open sale of bleaching powder but it is still sold in market as it was only for PHE department,” he said.
Aslam added that currently the available stock has migrated towards Jhelum in lower areas of Rambiara and upper areas towards Hirpora since the decrease in water level.