Karimganj: Environmentalist have expressed concern over the way aquatic creatures and their habitats are being destroyed in the upper reaches of river Barak in southern Assam.
Prominent nature conservation NGO Society for Activists for Forest and Environment (SAFE) has pointed out that "a terrible phenomenon is claiming the lives of various species in the river".
The tribals living on both banks of Barak have developed the harmful practice of blasting small gelatin sticks smuggled from Mizoram in the river to catch fish, the organisation`s general secretary Jishnu Dutta claimed.
"Quite disturbing is the movement of a group of fishermen from the Son beel area of Hailakandi during September annually to camp at Narraindahar close to the area of blasting operation and stay there till April", he said.
They use huge nets with extremely narrow holes to catch the fish playing havoc with the survival of the aquatic creatures, Dutta alleged in a memorandum to the authorities.
In the process, he said thousands of fish both young and matured along with turtles, dolphins and other aquatic life organisms were becoming victim of merciless killing.
In a memorandum addressed to the Cachar District Fishery Officer with copies to the Deputy Commissioner, Conservator of Forest and other concerned officers, SAFE pointed out that a terrible phenomenon was claiming the lives of various species in the river.
The memorandum recounted how Barak river once abounded with hundreds of species of fish, including giant cat fish, innumerable turtles and Gangetic dolphins making the river a treasure trove of aquatic life.
"But the indiscriminate use of gelatin sticks to blast in the river is telling heavily on the fish population which has gone down drastically," the memorandum noted.
With the population of fish coming down, the fishermen finding their fish business uneconomical and unprofitable, have now turned their focus to the sand dunes in the vicinity of Narraindahar and in the upper reaches, the ideal breeding ground of turtles and dolphins, the memorandum said.
The turtles breed in the winter season, lay eggs in December-January and the new borns come out in February-March.
The fishermen camping in the area catch the turtles with nets and other equipment for smuggling them to Karimganj and other places of Barak Valley and Bangladesh fetching them huge returns, he said.
Turtle meat sells in the black market at an average rate of Rs 800 per kilogram making it a profitable business proposition for the fishermen, the memorandum asserted.
The absence of mobile water police and surveillance or preventive activity on the part of the district fishery department was making things easy for the poachers and smugglers, the SAFE memo claimed.
Considering the gravity of the situation, SAFE has prevailed upon the district fishery officer to initiate effective and immediate action to prevent the indiscriminate destruction of aquatic creatures and save the biodiversity of river Barak.