Call to restore original state of Halda
Stakeholders called on the government for proper management of hatcheries, recovery of river bends and creation of sanctuary to restore the glory of the country's lone natural fish spawning centre at the Halda.
They made the call while talking to this correspondent about implementation of a project of Tk 13.85 crore to restore the original state of the Halda, "The potential natural breeding ground of major carps like Rui, Katla, Mrigel and Kalibaous."
Implementation of the five-year project started in July in 2007 to be completed by 2012.
But, the egg collectors, researchers and others concerned called for revising the project raising question about effectiveness of dredging of the river bed and renovation of sluice gates involving major portion of the project budget.
Sources said four modern hatchers have already been constructed along the river under Hathazari and Raozan upazilas at cost of Tk 1.32 crore and three other hatcheries renovated at a cost of Tk 10 lakh under the project so far.
The hatcheries are to help increase the hatching up and survival rate of the collected eggs to 90 percent from 50 percent achieved in conventional way of hatching in holes dug on earth.
But, excepting the largest one at Madunaghat none of the other six hatcheries came to any use to the egg collectors this year, said egg collectors Kamal Uddin and Udayan Barua.
Besides, Local Management Committee (LCM) formed to take care of the hatcheries often comprised some dishonest people involved in the bad practice of mixing lower quality Renu (artificially hatched four-day old fries selling at Tk 2000 per kg) with the original ones (selling at Tk 50,000 per kg) to earn bad names for the Halda spawns, alleged the local egg collectors.
District Fisheries Officer Md Serajuddin said they lack in trained persons in the hatcheries for increasing production of fries in the modern and scientific hatching.
He said a LCM has been reformed excluding such reported dishonest members at Garduara in the second week of May.
Under the project Water Development Board (WDB) is to dredge some 4.73 lakh cubic metres of earth to restore original depth of the river and “Kooms” (the hole created by whirlpool where the reproductions of fishes take place) at a cost of Tk 6.16 crore.
Prof Monzoor Ul Kibria said, “Since there is no previous record of depth of the river bed and 'Kooms” restoration of their original state through dredging is not possible.”
“The planned dredging is rather feared to destroy the existing Kooms,” said Prof Kibria who has been conducting research on the spawning at Halda since 2001.
He emphasised on allowing passage of hilly water and maintaining proper current to help natural dredging of the river.
The project included renovation of 12 sluice gates at a cost of Tk 99.97 lakh and research on the spawning centre to be carried out by Institute of Water Modelling (IWB) at a cost of Tk 45 lakh.
But, the experts opined that the sluice gates should rather be made inoperative through removal of lids as the gates obstruct flow of the springs and canals that fall into the Halda and carry nutrients required for spawns and fishes from the marshlands they pass by, they said.
Bangladesh Shrimp and Fisheries Foundation (BSFF) carried out a research on the Halda in 2005-2006.
While talking to The Daily Star on Tuesday Bangladesh Economic Association Chittagong Chapter President Prof Md Sikander Khan, who was a member of the research group, emphasised on proper management and training of the river, protecting the river bends and Alternative Income Generating Activities (AIGA).
Under the project Tk 2 crore has been allocated to rehabilitate local boatmen, fisherment and all those who depend on the Halda for livelihood.
But, the long list of such stakeholders includes many having no relation with egg collections while department of fisheries will provide only Tk 5000 to Tk 10,000 each, said the locals.
“The amount would be of no use to us as one needs over Tk 20,000 to buy a boat and over Tk 5000 to make nets,” said Garduara LCM President Kamal Uddin Sawdagor.
The stakeholders also held a discussion on 'Restoration and Preservation of the Halda' jointly organised by Forum for Planned Chittagong (FPC) and Institute of Engineers Bangladesh, Chittagong chapter jointly at IEB, Chittagong on April 18.
FPC Executive Vice-President Engineer ABMA Baset on May 21 sent a set of recommendations from the discussion to project director and the others concerned in this regard.
The recommendations included reallocating Tk 7.60 crore of dredging, research and sluice gate to other five heads.
It recommended for allocating Tk 2 crore for developing the detached river bends as suitable for fish cultivation, Tk 1.30 crore for recovery of the river bends, Tk 3.60 crore for creating alternative employment and round-the-clock patrol on the declared fish sanctuary at Halda, Tk 10 lakh for research to be conducted by research group comprising members from fisheries experts and social scientists, Tk 35 lakh for increased NGO activities, Tk 14 lakh for workshop and seminars for implementing the project and Tk 1.20 lakh for making the sluice gates non-functional.