No policy guideline to rehabilitate fishermen
Rehabilitation programme for the poor fishermen in the Halda river areas has been stalled for the last two years in absence of a comprehensive policy guideline on modus operandi of utilising the money sanctioned for it, said District Fisheries Officer Serajuddin yesterday.
Serajuddin, also director of the project titled 'Restoration of the natural fish breeding habitats of the river Halda', was speaking at a meeting of District Fisheries Resources Preservation and Development Committee at the local circuit house conference room with committee head and Chittagong Deputy Commissioner Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury in the chair.
Rehabilitation of the poor fishermen of the area aiming at refraining them from fishing during February-July period, when migrated mother fishes spawn eggs in the river, is one of the main components of the Tk 13.84 crore project.
Serajuddin told the meeting that rehabilitation of marginal fishermen is likely to start after approval of the draft policy they submitted earlier to the ministry concerned.
The core aim of the five-year project that began in fiscal 2006-2007 is to turn some specific areas of the river into 'fish sanctuary' and to preserve bio-diversity of the Halda river through preserving some indigenous fish species particularly the brood fishes (mother fish).
The Fisheries Department also imposed a cap on utilising the money amounting to Tk 6.15 crore sanctioned for river dredging and Tk one crore for repairing some existing sluice gates evaluating possible grievous impact on the river instead of benefiting it. Officials said process is on to divert the money for river dredging and sluice gate repair to other heads related with the project.
Local upazila administration officials alleged that indiscriminate extraction of sands from river bed on many points, unabated catching of mother fishes ignoring ban and reckless plying of engine boats have emerged as a serious threat to the river as fish sanctuary.
The meeting also recommended taking necessary steps for non- renewal of sand quarry lease agreement after expiry of their dates, imposing restriction on plying of mechanised boats during a particular period and legal action for defiance through conducting mobile courts frequently throughout the year.
It also asked the project officials to put on display boards at all important places on both the banks of the river inscribed with importance of the river, different aspects of the project and government's ban on fishing mentioning time and areas.
The meeting decided to appoint skilled manpower for maintaining the already built modern hatcheries adjacent to the riverbanks so that it could be utilised for providing better service to the egg-processors.
Deputy Commissioner Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury told the meeting that the committee would sit in the first quarter of every month for timely execution of the Halda River project.
In 2005, the government declared some areas of the river stretching about 40 km from Nazirhat Bridge to Kalurghat Bridge on the mouth of the river Karnaphuli and about 20 km areas in north to south from Satterghat Bridge to Madunaghat Bridge as 'fish sanctuary'.
Through a notification on July 2 in 2007, the government prohibited fishing in the mentioned areas during peak season.
The river is the country's lone source of inbreeding-free fish fry as brood fishes of indigenous species like Rui, Katla, Mrigel and Kaliboush migrate to Halda from different rivers and release eggs during March-June cycle every year.
According to experts, different man-made and natural disasters like destruction of spawning ground by loop cutting, massive quarry of sands from river bed illegally by a section of unscrupulous traders, pollution of the river by industrial waste, unplanned construction of a good number of sluice gates by the locals for irrigation purpose, indiscriminate catching and killing of fish- fries particularly the mother fishes and geographical change in the river due to unchecked erosion for years have posed a serious threat to the bio-diversity of the Halda.
Due to these risk factors, the river that was once a haven for brood fishes for releasing their eggs has now turned into a quite dangerous one resulting in drastic fall in availability of eggs and fish-fries of natural species as lesser number of mother fishes have come here for releasing eggs in the recent years.