Saturday, November 07, 2009

Blame game begins after fish deaths in lake

Blame game begins after fish deaths in lake

Amid doubts of official goof-up, departments point fingers at each other and also blame the contractor

Bosky Khanna. Bangalore



The death of over 10 tonnes of fish in Jakkur lake has raised the hackles of conservationists and city planners.
Lack of communication and ignorance are believed to have caused the tragedy. The fish that perished were Tilapia (commonly called as Jalebi), Rohu, Catla and common carp. While the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) blames the fisheries department, the latter blames the BDA. Furthermore, both the agencies also point a finger at the contractor who did not follow the directions of a letter.
Speaking to DNA, assistant director fisheries, BDA, Dr Shekhar Reddy said that the fish died as all water from the lake was removed all of a sudden. Earlier, when desilting and rejuvenation was undertaken in Rachenahalli lake, fishermen were informed. They placed nets to hold the fish and saved them. In Jakkur lake, fishermen thought they could do the same when the water reached a lower level at the depression. But there was no depression. Instead, there was a lot of humus, silt and lavatory waste. All this, coupled with turbidity in water level, led to depletion of oxygen levels in the lake causing fish deaths. The officials and the fishing contractors did not pay heed to the letter written to them on February 22.
The lake is spread across 108 acres and the BDA has undertaken the task of rejuvenating it with a budget of Rs21.91 crore. It cleared 4.5 lakh cubic metres of silt. Fishing on the lake on contract basis started last year. The lake was handed over for rejuvenation by Lake Development Authority with the consent of the fisheries department.
"We are not against development. We know that rejuvenation of lakes is of utmost importance to protect the aquatic life and ensure people healthy food. But sewerage is making the fish toxic and the process of rejuvenation is also unscientific," said Dr SJ Vikas, assistant director of fisheries department and officer of the Bangalore urban district.
"We had suggested that while rejuvenation is going on, people should not go for large openings in the lake by using JCBs which was done here. Rather small sleuths should be made so that the water level gradually falls and fish do not die. We will ensure that there is proper coordination between departments so that such loss of aquatic life will not happen again," Vikas said
From the fisheries point of view, once the fish are cleared from the lake, it takes over nine months to get back the natural ecosystem.
Contract for Jakkur lake was given for five years and it was the first year of the contract. Officials said the contractor and the BDA should have thought about the presence of large fish quantity breeding in the lake before it was cleared.
Reacting to the fish deaths, Jokhim, secretary of the cooperative society for backward and minorities fishermen in Pariyannepalya, said a timely alert about the operation could have ensured steps to save the fish. Jokhim has been awarded the contract of fishing in the lake.
"There was lack of communication and the death of fish has left 150 fishermen jobless. Our dilemma now is where to dump the dead fish," Jokhim said.

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