Celebrating India’s Riverine Fisheries on the World Fisheries Day
Above: Women fishing in small pools near (सादिया घाट) Sadiya Ghat on (लोहित) Lohit and Dibang Rivers. Women use several gear, baskets and nets to catch fish from the slush. The activity is accompanied by laughter, chatter and songs. Photo: Author
21st November is celebrated as World Fisheries Day. Since the past few years we have been trying to highlight the significance and richness of India’s riverine fisheries which support over 10 million people by providing livelihoods and nutritional security. Ironically, although India is the world’s biggest inland fish producer, our riverine fisheries are woefully neglected. We do not have a record of riverine fish catch and its trends, people dependent on riverine fishing, species of fish and their population trends, etc. Interventions like dams, water abstraction and pollution have severely affected riverine fisheries, which do not find a place in the dominant water management narrative.
This does not dampen the scale, diversity and the beauty of riverine fisheries and fishing communities in India. And so, this Word Fisheries Day, we try to put together a photo journey looking at some fish-rich rivers and some remarkable fishing communities in the country. We would be grateful if you could share information riverine/freshwater fisheries from your region.
Riverine fisheries are special. They not only support vulnerable communities and contribute to food sovereignty of far-flung places, but are the true ambassadors of healthy and living rivers.
Happy World Fisheries Day (belated!)
(All pictures by Author)
Above: Ladies off for fishing in a tributary of Tengapani River in Arunachal Pradesh
Above: A young tribal man fishing in the Lohit River at Parsuram Kund. The site for 1750 MW Lower Demwe Dam is just one kilometer upstream from here. When the dam is commissioned, water level fluctuations here at Parshuram Kund would be nearly 5 feet every single day in lean season. Impact of the dam on the fish in Lohit would be disastrous. Lohit River Basin has more than 12 dams under various stages of sanctioning.
Above: Lady with her quick catch at Alubari Ghat on the Lohit River in Arunachal Pradesh. Several catches like these throughout the day help her with her livelihood and protein security.
Above: Fishing gear affixed to rocks in the Dibang basin, much downstream of Nizamghat
Above: Women collecting fish near Sadiya Ghat on Lohit. Small fish pools are inseparable from rice fields here. Water Hyacinth is specifically grown to lure and trap fish. Women use several gear, baskets and nets to catch fish from the slush. The activity is accompanied by laughter, chatter and songs.
Above: Fishing at Sadiya Ghat across Lohit-Dibang. Dolphin Sightings are common here.
Above and below: Maguri Beel: rich in birds, wildlife like water buffaloes and fish! The entire Beel, near the Dibru Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve is teeming with fish and fisher communities. Various fishing gears are used here.
Above: Different fishing practices in tributaries of Burhi Dihing. Most of the fish is for domestic consumption and only the left over is sold.
Below: Boats in the Bhagirathi, fed by water diverted by Farakka Barrage, West Bengal
Below: Lone Ilish (Hilsa) caught, which was hurriedly taken over by the agent. The fisherfolk gets about 100 Rs while the agent will sell it for about 400 Rs. Farakka Barrage has single handedly destroyed Hilsa fisheries in the Ganga and Padma in West Bengal
Above: Fishing at the Vashishthi Estuary. Vashishthi is a west flowing river in Maharashtra Western Ghats. Fish population here has collapsed following pollution from Lote Parshuram Chemical Industries and water releases from Koyna HEP
Above: Mussel (Bivalve) Collection in one of Western Ghat River Estuaries
Above: Temple Fish Sanctuary at Kumardhara River (Nethravati River Basin, Karnataka Western Ghats), protecting Deccan Mahseer. This place is threatened by a string of mini hydel projects in the upstream and downstream
Above and below: Meager Fish Catch from Shastri Estuary, Maharashtra is the key to nutritional security of their families
Below: Kadar tribesman fishing in the Chalakudy River in Kerala Western Ghats, just downstream the site of the proposed 163 MW Athirapally Hydropower Project. Challakudy is an extremely fish rich river and its last flowing refuge will be destroyed by the HEP
Although much-ravaged, riverine fisheries and fishing communities are still thriving at many places across the country. The rivers or fisher-folks or the fish receive no special attention or protection. On the contrary dam projects do not even consider their impacts on fisheries, nor any compensation for the affected families.
Their is a need to get together to acknowledge, understand and conserve the beautiful riverine fisheries of India…Let us hope we stand up to the challenge.
(All photos by author)