Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Apr 19:
As many as 110 species of fish in Odisha’s Hirakud Dam Reservoir (HDR) here have become extinct over the decades largely due to rampant fishing, discharge of industrial effluents into the reservoir and over-drawing of water by industries.
When it was constructed in the 1950s, there were around 183 fish species in the reservoir. Six decades down the line, the fish varieties have come down to 73 of which only 18 are consumed by the people and the rest are released back into the reservoir, officials said.
Fisheries department officials attribute the decline in fish population to use of dragnets in netting fish during monsoon season. The fishermen use zero mesh size nets during breeding season preventing spawns to grow into fish.
Five primary fish co-operative societies and fisheries department go for netting in the HDR divided into six sectors in the Sambalpur, Jharsuguda and Bargarh districts.
It is alleged that the fishing mafia use over 100 dragnets having less than four mesh size nets with which fish ranging from spawns to big ones are stuck in the nets. This has contributed to the steep decline in the fish population.
Besides, the over-drawing of water to feed the industries and release of effluents to the HDR are the two other major factors which have contributed to the fall in the population of aquatic mammal species.
Coal industries, sponge iron, cement and thermal power units, which started since the 90s, are the main culprits behind this. These units release their effluents into the HDR polluting the water bodies, which has resulted in extinction of several species, environmentalists opined.
These industries flush industrial waste, untreated water and silt into Mahanadi river and its tributaries causing permanent damage to the living organisms in the reservoir, they added.
Built in 1957, the Hirakud Dam Multi Purpose Project had irrigation, flood control, power generation, water transportation and fishing on its agenda. It is spread over 74,592 hectare and over 5000 families are dependent on it, with fishing being their prime source of livelihood.
The fish found in the HDR also meets the requirements of neighbouring West Bengal and Bihar.