Vol. 5 Num 1039 Sat. May 05, 2007  

Call for preserving Halda fish resources

Stakeholders put emphasis on taking effective short and long term measures with involvement of both public and private sectors to preserve the bio-diversity and indigenous fish species of Halda river, country's only natural fish breeding habitat.

They observed that meaningful steps to this effect will not only save the fish resources of the river from gradual extinction but it's accumulative contribution to the economy will be huge and worthy.

Official sources said a project, which has been taken to bring back the lost glory and uniqueness of Halda river, is in limbo due to non-allocation of fund even after passing of one year of the scheme.

The core aim of the project titled "Restoration of the natural breeding habitats of the Halda river" with 5 years of implementing period from July 2006 is to turn some specific areas of the river as "fish sanctuary" and to preserve bio-diversity of the Halda river by protecting some indigenous fish spices particularly the brood fishes (mother fish).

About a year back, the government declared some areas of the river stretching about 40 kilometers from Karnaphuli river mouth to Nazirhat point as "fish sanctuary".

The river is the country's only source of fish fry as brood fishes of indigenous spices like Rui, Katla, Mrigel and Kaliboush migrates to the Halda from different rivers and releases eggs during March-June period every year.

Egg-collectors collect the eggs from the river soon after the spawning by mother fishes by using thick net and after some natural process at small pond adjacent to river bank sell them to fish hatchery and nursery owners.

Experts and officials said different human-made and natural disasters like destruction of spawning ground by loop cutting pollution of river by industrial waste, unplanned building of huge sluice gate by the locals for irrigation purpose, indiscriminate catching and killing of fish fry particularly the mother fishes and geographical change in the river due to erosion for years have posed a serious threat to the bio-diversity of Halda.

Due to the risk factors, the river once a safer place for brood fishes for releasing their eggs has now turned into a quite dangerous one resulting in drastic fall in availability of eggs as lesser number of mother fishes come there for releasing eggs in recent years.

A study carried out by Prof Mohammad Ali Azadi of Zoology Department of Chittagong University, an expert who has been carrying out research works on the unique character of this river and its fish spawning, showed that the amount of collected fish fry from the river came down to 400 kilograms in 2006 from 2500 kilograms in 1945.

Mohammad Ershad Miah, district fisheries officer and project director, told BSS that the areas under Tk 13.68 crore (estimated) project include development of hatchery and fish sanctuary, rehabilitation of poor fishermen to discourage them from catching fishes during spawning period of March to July, dredging of river, development of canals, training of the unskilled egg-collectors, carrying out study work by the experts and awareness campaign.

He said amount of egg collection from the river and supply of fish fry has increased significantly in last couple of years following some primary steps taken at both public and private levels that include training of poor egg-collectors on modern fry-breeding process and awareness campaign to stop killing of mother fishes during peak season.