Bamboo fencing in Laghata, Palak rivers wreaks havoc on indigenous fish species
When the government is observing National Fisheries Week countrywide, a section of unscrupulous fishers continues to catch native fish and aquatic lives erecting bamboo fences across the Laghata and Palak rivers in Kamalganj upazila of Moulvibazar.
According to the Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, 1950, setting up impediments to the flow of a river is prohibited and a punishable offense.
Although such a method of fishing is banned by law, it is going on flouting rules hampering the breeding and supply of native fish in the rivers.
According to the Fisheries Department, the Laghata river flows through the haors of Adampur, Alinagar, Shamshernagar and Patanushar unions in Kamalganj upazila and falls into the Manu river in Rajnagar upazila. This river plays a vital role in the increased production of native fish in haors, beels and reservoirs and has facilitated irrigation.
Sahadat Hossain, a resident of Adampur area, said the re-excavation work was completed last year as per the demand of the locals. As soon as the excavation work was completed, a section of unscrupulous fishers has erected bamboo fences in Srirampur and Gopinagar areas of the river.
Visiting the area, it was found that two bamboo fences have been installed in Srirampur and Gopinagar areas of Patanushar union of Laghata river and a few bamboo fences have also been installed in Palak river. As a result, the free flow of water is being disrupted harming the reproduction of fish. Various species of aquatic lives including fish, frogs, snakes and kuchia are dying in the cages kept inside the net.
Residents of the area, including local teacher Ferdous Khan, said several bamboo fences are planted in the small rivers every year hampering drainage and fish breeding.
Farmer Akhter Mia said, "Even a few years ago, there were a number of varieties of indigenous fish in Laghata river and Keola haor, but those have disappeared now. They have been setting up bamboo fences and catching fish in flagrant violation of law, but no action is being taken against them."
Social worker Toabur Rahman said that if the illegal fishing by the influential sector could be stopped, the Laghata river would be full of fish in the current season. Because of the bamboo fences, fish are not able to move upstream. Many species particularly the small ones are on the verge of extinction because of the shrinking of feeding and breeding ground.
Locals alleged, Alta Mia erected a bamboo fence in Gopinagor area, Wahid Mia did it in Srirampur area and Jubair Ahmed, Sufian Khan, Anwar Khan, Arob Ali and Ismail Khan have installed the illegal bamboo fence in Polki river area.
Kamalganj Upazila Fisheries Officer (acting) Siddiqur Rahman said, "I have heard about illegal bamboo fences in Laghata and Palak rivers. However, during the National Fisheries Week, the bamboo fences will be removed and action will be taken against the accused."
Nurul Mohaimin Milton, general secretary of the Bangladesh Environmental Journalists' Association, said there are many small rivers, canals and beels in the region, which now become green paddy fields every dry season due to massive siltation.
The huge number of water bodies could be one of the effective means of large-scale fish farming alongside protecting the endangered fish species, he added.
Contacted, Alta Mia and Wahid Mia said, "False allegations are raised against us to tarnish the image of the locality."
Sultan Mahmud, assistant project director, Hilsa Development and Management Project, Department of Fisheries in Dhaka highlighted the importance of the open water bodies in conserving the native fish species and said the open water bodies are also important for generating employment in the fish farming sector.
In addition to nutritional aspects, the open water fisheries have been contributing a lot to maintain ecological balance and wetland habitats along with aquatic biodiversity, he added.
He said excessive use of modern technologies in both agriculture and fish culture has contributed to the decline of the feeding and breeding grounds of the indigenous fish varieties.
He opined that frequent and indiscriminate use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in agricultural land has directly or indirectly been destroying the open and cultured water fishery resources and fish food organisms of the wetland and floodplains.