Shankar Das, aged around 65, of Ispahani Jelepara in Bandar area of Narayanganj, has been catching fish in the river Shitalakkhya since he was 10, but now he is facing hard time for lack of fish in the river waters. Water pollution forces fish to disappear from the river.
Fishing is his only occupation like other fishermen to bear the expenses of his family. But, he is now thinking of leaving the occupation since he cannot catch fish from the river for their survival.
“Fish have disappeared fast in the Shitalakkhya where I used to catch fish. We experience scarcity of fish over the last 6-7 years,” said Shankar.
Noting that a fishing boat is his only dependence, he said he frequently goes to the river to catch fish using nets, but he fails to find any. “I may catch poor amount of fish from the river, but this is not enough to lead our life. That's why my family has been suffering a lot.”
Altaf Miah, 77, another fisherman of Laksmankhula area in the district, said once he used to catch fish from the river using fishing anchors, but now he does not put anchors in the river to catch fish as there is no fish in the river.
He said sitting on both the riverbanks many people had caught fish from the river using fishing anchors in the past, but the scenario is completely different now as fish rapidly disappeared from it.
Like Shankar Das and Alfat, all professional fishermen experience the same fate. The netting of fish is not seen in the river nowadays. Many of them have already quit their occupation due to disappearance of fish in the river, caused by water pollution.
Locals say a large number of unplanned factories were set up on the banks of the Shitalakkhya and those are continuously discharging waste into the river, putting aquatic animals at stake.
Continued discharge of chemical waste from the factories and release of oil from water vessels have made the river water extremely polluted, they said.
They said dead fish are often found in the river and if water pollution continues, fish species will totally disappear from the Shitalakkhya in near future.
According to the Department of Environment (DoE), dissolved oxygen (DO) level in water should be 6 parts per million (ppm) for the survival of aquatic species, including fish, in water. But, the DO level is found about at 2 ppm in the Shitalakkhya during monsoon and it reaches almost zero level in dry season.
Encroachment and pollution of the river force its fish into disappearance. Major portions of both banks of the 110-kilometre river, which flows through Narsigndi, Gazipur and Narayanganj and falls into the Dhaleswari River in Munshiganj, has been brought under industrialisation over the years.
A large number of factories, including a fertiliser one, thermal power plant, textiles and dyeing, have been set up along the river from Ghorashal to Munshiganj through encroachment and those are polluting the river.