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Posted at: Nov 4, 2018, 10:26 PM; last updated: Nov 4, 2018, 10:26 PM (IST)

Water resources ministry turns focus on improving Hilsa population

Ravi S.Singh
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 4

In a bid to improve the fauna relating to the Ganges, the Water Resources Ministry has turned its focus on improving population of Hilsa -- a high pedigree and arguably East Asia’s most prized fish, which has declined due to obstruction to their migration from Bay of Bengal into the river to breed.

The obstruction is on account of Farakka barrage commissioned in 1975 on the Hoogly, a branch of the Ganges, in West Bengal.

The dwindling migration has been a cause for concern among policy makers at the Centre, and the governments in the Ganges’ five basin states which comprise Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), a nodal body of Water Resources Ministry with regard to “Namami Gange” project, has approved two projects worth Rs 50 crore for West Bengal, including for Hilsa fisheries improvement at Farakka barrage.

“Implementation of the fishery project will increase the natural stock of Hilsa in the river Ganga, upstream of Farakka barrage through ranching of wild collected Hilsa seed/juveniles,” the Ministry said.

The project includes study and monitoring Hilsa migration across the barrage in the main river Ganga.

Hilsa is a salt water fish, but migrates to sweet waters of the Ganges from the Bay of Bengal (the river drains in it). It travels upstream of the river during the mating seasons and returns to its natural abode after spawning.

The hatchlings also head to marine water, and the cycle goes on.

The breeding season happens thrice a year, the most intense being the monsoon season when the river is in full flow.

The Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) in one of its report on the status of Hilsa in the Hoogly-Bhagirathi river said they used to migrate up to Agra and Kanpur in years of abundance, while in normal years, the fish used to migrate up to Allahabad and further up — a distance of about 1,700-1,800 km.

It added that following commissioning of the barrage Hilsa fisheries upstream of barrage have been negligible in most of the fish land centres. 

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