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Murshidabad brings back indigenous fish varieties

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Samanjit Sengupta is Additional District Magistrate of Murshidabad

The meandering streams of a migrating Ganges, often leaves innumerable ox-bow lakes and waterbodies along its course, in the fertile land of Murshidabad. The mighty river has innumerable distributaries and tributaries that have been home to diverse aquatic ecosystems over the years. Murshidabad is not just the historical land of the Last Nawabs of Bengal, or the last independent rulers of India, before the British took over;it is also a district, that has a well-guarded ecological treasure and a thriving population of various fish species. The state is a delight to ecologists and geography students, as well as to those who earn their livelihood from the toils of this land.

Adding a feather to Murshidabad’s glorious past and its fertile lands, the Bengal government has taken up a unique initiative to turn its water bodies to grounds of livelihood. The Government’s Fishery Department has not only taken massive steps for pisciculture, fish spawn and fish breeding, preservation, export and fish processing industries, but are actively trying to preserve and conserve the rare and local breeds of fish. This is extremely important as the fragile aquatic ecosystem is fast vanishing in most parts of the world, thanks to pollution and over exploitation. This results in loss of indigenous breeds, that cannot withstand adverse impact on the ecosystem, as much as their hybrid cousins can. Such initiatives by the fisheries department will thus ensure the ecological diversity does not get diminished. Hence, we are organising special rural fairs for local fish culture in different parts of Murshidabad.

We educate farmers and locals on conservation through such fairs. Breeding and re-introducing local fishes into ponds and lakes is an important step towards conservation. At the recent ‘Local Small Fish and Local Lake-Canals Fair,’ the Hon’ble Minister of Fisheries, Sri C. Sinha, discussed in length with local fishermen, how to preserve local fish population. The discussions turned even more engaging,accompanied by the scenic backdrop of Bishtupur, blessed with a lovely oxbow lake.

We reintroduced local fish varieties in these ox-bow lakes. Fish farmers were given fishing equipment, cycles with iceboxes to sell fish and financial incentives for cultivating and conserving local threatened fish varieties, such as ‘Khaira,’ a tasty local small fish that is a threatened species. Locals were so enthusiastic that they were found in long queues waiting outside fair price shops to buy these indigenous fishes. Jayanta Kumar Pradhan and his team of fishery officials did a great job, trying to maintain the ecological balance of Murshidabad’s water bodies.

For me,an added bonus was trying out some delicious fresh fish fry, sold at the Food Stall, to ring in a festive mood!