The Jammu and Kashmir government has set off a probe to ascertain the cause of deaths of hundreds of trout fish, the freshwater fish of Europe introduced in Kashmir by British in 1900, earlier this week.
The officials of state's fisheries department are camping near Madhumati stream near Kishenganga river where Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) is building a 330 MW hydropower project, in the
frontier district of Bandipora.
The officials are investigating what caused hundreds of trout to float dead on the surface of water early this week.
While local media has been reporting about the possible effluents from the under-construction Kishenganga power project, officials of the fisheries department have not ruled out "sabotage by mischievous elements".
"It is a fact that some trout fish have died in Bandipora but the situation is not as grave as has been portrayed. Still it is a cause of concern and we have sent experts to ascertain the reasons," said joint director fisheries in Kashmir, RN Pandita.
"Tentatively there are three possibilities for the death of fishes. It can be due to effluents from HCC project, or poisoning by bleaching power which public health department uses for water filtration," said Pandita.
"There is also a possibility of mischief and that is why we have lodged a complaint with the police as well," he said.
A police official at Bandipora police station, however, was critical of the department for filing the complaint late. "The incident has happened on Monday and they filed the complaint on Thursday. The department seemed very indolent," he said.
District magistrate of Bandipora, Manzoor Ahmad Lone was evasive over the issue instead narrating the benefits of "developmental projects" underway in the area. "The patch of the stream where the fish died is almost dry and there is very less possibility for the presence of a considerable number of trout in the stream," Lone said.
Kashmir started cultivating trout on a large scale in the mid-1980s, with the help of European Union funding. Despite two decades of violence since 1989, trout rearing in the rivers and streams of Kashmir valley has spread this European breed of fish throughout the state.
Pandita stated that they have taken the issue very seriously. "We need development but that can't beachieved at the cost of our flora and fauna. We have to conserve Kashmir's environment which is deteriorating day by day," he added.