Khandapara: The demand for freshwater fish is growing by the day in the state with the varieties of fish available in Mahanadi in Nayagarh district being the most preferred among the denizens, a report said.
However, decline in fish population in the Mahanadi has left the fishermen community here worried, especially due to rampant and illegal fishing by outsiders in the river. This has threatened their survival as they feel that rampant fishing in the river might rob them of their livelihood. They have demanded that the district administration should intervene and stop the outsiders from fishing in Mahanadi. They warned that if the authorities failed to initiate any action to solve the problem, they would resort to an agitation.
Reports said that the state government has been providing various incentives to support and aid fish cultivation in the state. However, these plans remain only on paper and are yet to be implemented. As a result, people in the state have to depend on fish supplies from Andhta Pradesh and West Bengal to meet the requirements.
Over 700 fishermen and Tiar communities residing in the riparian villages of Chhamundia, Badamula, Ishwarpur, Bentapada, Rasanga, Routpada, Dashipur, Belpada Patna, Kishore Prasad, Paturia, Balaram Prasad, Sidhamula, Banpur, Kanitilo, Madhapur, Hanumantprasad, Padmabati, Karabar, Badabara and Manipur villages under the Gania, Khandapara and Bhapur in Nayagarh district eke out their living by catching fish in the Mahanadi river.
The demand for freshwater fish and prawn available in Mahanadi river is very high due to their delectable taste. The prawn available in the river sells at over Rs 500 per kg, while freshwater fish like rohu, bhakur, koshala and mir sell for Rs 200 per kg. The fishermen here harvest around five to seven quintals of fish daily.
However, recently the catch has gone down sharply in Mahanadi due to the foray of outsiders into the area to catch fish in the river. Expecting to become rich overnight, these outsiders are allegedly using illegal methods like poison to catch fish from the river. These outsiders have adopted this method as it involves minimum expenses and labour to catch fish. Such illegal activities have often led unpleasant situations among the fishermen and outsiders.
The use of poison had led to decline in fish population in the river. Hundreds of people from the district and outside are thronging the area on daily to catch fish in the river. They are using angles and nets for the purpose. The main food of the fish is fungus growing on stones and water weeds. The food for fish declines during the winter as the outsiders throng the area during this season and catch fish by using poison laced food as bait.
This has hit the livelihood of the local fishermen, alleged Suresh Chandra Dalai and Shatrughna Behera, president and secretary of Kantilo Kaibarata Samaja respectively, and Pradip Kumar Kar, sarpanch of Banpur panchayat. They have demanded that the district administration impose a ban on such illegal fishing, failing which they will resort to agitation in coming days.