Sindh’s depleting fish resource
Production of most species of sweet water and marine fish including Palla and prawn has drastically declined in Sindh over the past quarter century.
According to a rough estimate, production of Palla, during this period, the delicious fish of Sindh, has gone down at least by 80 per cent, while the output of various other fish species and prawns has also dropped by 50 per cent. But, the most alarming is the fall in Palla yield. According to a source, this year the output of Palla in the Indus was almost nil.
The reason behind this sharp drop is the nominal flow of fresh water into the Indus downstream Kotri in the last 10 to 15 years. According to experts, in the past fresh water used to flow in the Indus downstream Kotri by May and continued till August. During this period, Palla used to lay eggs in seawater and then reaching the river’s sweet water, it used to start swimming against the current towards upcountry via the Indus. Its size and weight increased during this period. But for the last over 25 years water was virtually not allowed to flow downstream Kotri, which led to gradual extinction of this species.
A number of causes are being attributed to the fall in the output. These include reduced fresh water flow into the Indus River; toxic effluent from sugar mills falling into the river; LBOD’s saline water; Karachi’s’ industrial toxics drained into the sea; flow of effluent of Karachi city and animal blood from slaughter houses into the sea. As a result, not only fish species in river, canals and other water bodies have been affected but also those in the coastal areas of Karachi, Thatta and Badin.
In the past, Sindh used to be called the land of lakes and small and big water bodies. The number of small and big water bodies
has now come down from 1200 to 700-800 due to the following factors: urbanisation and construction of roads on these waters, flow of saline water and other toxic materials into these waters. Some waters have either evaporated or their quality has deteriorated turning them into brackish – unfit for survival of fish.
The quality of even a big lake of Asia, the Manchar Lake, has deteriorated partly due to flow of saline water from MNV Drain and Balochistan and partly to local fishermen’s pouring cement in the lake to facilitate fishing. The fisheries department officials, say a study was being made to ascertain the actual number of waters in Sindh which still exist despite all these hazards.
According to experts, a havoc has been caused by sugar mills, mostly those located in the coastal belt of Thatta and Badin districts. Toxic effluent coming out from these mills is drained into the sea. These toxics also affect different waters on its way to the sea.
As for sugar mills located in areas away from sea coast, experts complained that their toxic materials fall into river, canals or go directly to crop fields which is also harmful for human health. An official of the fisheries department said that though there were laws to punish such sugar mills, the owners of these millers are too powerful to be made accountable.
Fish experts also complain that rapidly declining mangroves in the coastal areas is another cause of fall in fish production.
They pointed out that some sea fish eat their own eggs. But, in case where these mangroves exist, these eggs get shelter in them and develop into fish.
The fisheries department official said that the department, in coordination with the Sindh University, plans to establish a freshwater prawn hatchery in Jamshoro. They said, a MoU has been signed with the Sindh University, which will provide land for this hatchery. Here, they said, students of the Sindh University would also carry out research work on various aspects of freshwater prawns.
Besides, the department has set up a shrimp farm in Gharo, Thatta district, and now two private firms are also establishing such farms in the coastal area, sources said. In addition, a shrimp hatchery had been installed near Hawkesbay, Karachi, where 2,000 kg shrimp seed has been produced, they added.