Rare aquatic species feared dead at Harike

AMRITSAR: With the flow of the Beas towards the Ferozepur and Rajasthan feeder halted on March 27 for repair works, rare aquatic species at the Harike wetland are feared to have died for want of water. Efforts are now on to rescue the Indus dolphin, say sources.

Rare aquatic species feared dead at Harike

The dried-up Harike wetland after the water flow was stopped.

editorial@tribune.com

GS Paul 

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 6

With the flow of the Beas towards the Ferozepur and Rajasthan feeder halted on March 27 for repair works, rare aquatic species at the Harike wetland are feared to have died for want of water. Efforts are now on to rescue the Indus dolphin, say sources.

Normally 30,000 cusecs of water flows into the Harike wetland, a confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers. However, it measures just 3,770 cusecs as of now. The wetland is home to at least 26 species of fish, including rohu, catla, puntius, cirrhina, chhanna, mystus, chitala, cyprinus, ambassis ranga, besides the Indus dolphin which was discovered in 2007 at two points upstream Beas.

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The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), Punjab, says pond areas in different pockets of the Harike wetland have dried up. Its chairman Gunbir Singh squarely blames the sudden stopping of waters for the rampant destruction of aquatic life. 

“At least 90 per cent of rare species of fish and turtle are dead. The Indus dolphin, the pride of this wetland, is in danger too. To make matters worse, encroachers have stepped up activities on the dry beds,” he said. While the Irrigation Department blames the Forest and Wildlife Department for its failure to take timely measures, the latter, denying rare species have been lost, say Irrigation officials have been “dilly dallying” on releasing water into the wetland.

Gulshan Nagpal, XEN, Harike Division (Ferozepur), said they had to stop the water flow as gates on the Harike banks and the main head works needed immediate repairs. “There are 31 gates downstream and 14 gates upstream. Nine gates are still to be repaired,” he explained.

“The water flow has been stopped till April 16 for repairs that have been undertaken after 12 years. The government had sent a copy of the notification in this regard to the head office of the Forest and Wildlife Department well in advance on March 8. They could have raised temporary embankments to hold back water. But they did not plan anything to rescue the water species,” he said.

While Wildlife Block Officer Baljeet Singh claimed their repeated pleas to the Irrigation Department for  releasing the water had been spurned, District Forest Officer (DFO) Baljeet Singh said the situation was not all that alarming and that the dolphins were safe. 

“We were worried about the dolphins. But all seven are in Beas’ safe zone where the water level is 3 feet.  We found a few turtles on dry patches. These were saved,” he said.

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