Y.S. RANA, CHANDIGARH—“Self-dependent” seems to be the new buzzword among people living besides dams and reservoirs in the picturesque mountainous state—Himachal Pradesh and they use those words quite often. Change is evident—they are more self-assured and definitely more assertive. While their ponds reaping rich fish harvest, the fishermen cooperatives are helping employed youth undertake this income-generating activity.
Mr Gurcharan Singh, director-cum-warden, Fisheries, Bilaspur stated that recently an expert in fish farming from Kochi had visited the state to discuss the project ‘cage fish farming’ with the officials of the department. He further revealed that the state government had sent a team of HP Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project to study fish farming technique in small reservoirs and ponds in Jharkhand and adopted the its model through Watershed Development Division, Swarghat in district Bilaspur. State government provides financial assistance of Rs one lakh to SC/ST applicant and Rs 80,000 to general category for construction of pond for fish farming.
Fish farming in Himachal Pradesh is proving game changer for the people of state especially living near dams. From poly house revolution, Himachal Pradesh is heading to ‘blue revolution’ as it has not only created job opportunities but also proved a revenue booster dose to the fisheries department. Such a project seems to be a win-win strategy for both the government and the communities. The government is able to boost its revenues the fishermen too feel income improve and are able to spend more on children’s education and houses.
A number of oustees of Pong Dam in district Kangra can be seen busy converting their mud houses into concrete one. Pawan Kumar an oustees who has been in fish farming for the past more than five years, said that local markets was available in an around Pong Dam within a distance of 20-25 kms for selling fish. “Earlier, he finds it difficult to earn Rs 2000 a month. Now thanks for fish farming I am earning as much as to sustain my family well,” he says. The state government’s aquaculture initiatives have caught people’s imagination especially among small farmers and unemployed youths. Communities formed cooperatives to practice aquaculture. The officials of the fishery department admitted that the scheme have succeeded in promoting viable vocation to over 5,000 families constituting about 20 per cent Oustees of Gobind Sagar and Pong Dams. By 2016, the number of fisherman cooperatives has risen to 52 with membership of 7549. The department has also recorded over 1100 tonne fish catch valued Rs 1218.24 lakh during last fishcal.
Affluence is not a word that would normally associate with people living near reservoirs. In a bid to boost fish production as well as livelihood, the state government taps its dam reservoirs—Pong Dam, Gobind Sagar. Govindsagar maintained highest level of fish production per hectare in the country. A new scheme of ‘cage fish farming’ was introduced in the state on a pilot basis in Gobindsagar and Pong Dam reservoirs in 2014. The rate of financial return on investment is the economic indicator that guides the investor to choose a particular fishery sector practice.
With the technical assistance of the Central Institute of Technology, Kochi, the state has set up four fish processing units, one each at Bhakra and Pong Dams, Katauhad Kalan in Una District and Ratyod in Solan district. With involvement of private sector, state has produced 581.73 lakh carp seeds and 17.50 lakh trout seeds that have fetched revenue of over Rs 465 lakh to the fisheries department in 2015-16. Thus has recorded an increase of over 9 per cent in fish production. According to official data, the fishery department is earning more than Rs four crore annually from fish farming.
In the past four years, the state government had allocated Rs 35 crore apart from budgetary allocation to create more and more self-employment opportunities in fisheries sector. It is also revealed that a sum of Rs 13 crore was spent alone under the ‘Blue Revolution.’
In the state, the eyed-eggs of brown trout were brought to Kullu and Chamba from Kashmir more than 100 years ago. But regular release of eyed-eggs in tributaries of the Bear River between 1912 and 1947 had met with little success. It was found that failure of brown trout in Kangra district was primarily due to absence of suitable stretches of streams and lack of pools.
India has 19,370 reservoirs spread over 16 States including Himachal Pradesh and it is expected to increase due to populartory of fish farming. The water bodies created by the HP MHWDP have great scope for fish farming which would be a potential and profitable livelihood activity in rural area and make them economically viable in the years to come. EOM