Contaminated fish has become a staple diet for people in the flood-affected areas. With relief supplies still not reaching many villages in the Madhepura district, fish from the polluted Kosi has become the staple diet of most people living marooned in their homes.
These fish contain poisonous biotoxins that cannot be destroyed on cooking. The most common type of fish poisoning is ciguatera fish poisoning. "This is contributing to an increase in diarrhoea cases, stomach disorders and gastroentitis," says Dr Om Prakash, says medical officer of a primary health center in Mujaffarnagar.
The civil hospital in Purnia has also registered several deaths due to diarrhoea, though the exact cause for infection cannot be determined in each case.
These fish-mostly the tangra and pothiya varieties - are now being sold in Purnia district too, where they cost less than Rs 10 for one kilogram. Before the floods, these fishes were being sold anywhere between Rs 50-60.
"These fishes are all contaminated and unfit for consumption. But because they are cheap and easily available, the poor are either buying them or fishing on their own. It's a crazy situation," says Dr M.M. Wasim, medical officer, Sadar Hospital, Purnia.
"The problem is the fish are multiplying rapidly. You can neither kill them as it would further pollute the water nor eat them," he adds.
Another challenge in front of the authorities is to explain to the masses about the disastrous effects of fish consumption. Rajesh Kumar Sinha, labour enforcement officer and officer in-charge at the Bellori camp has also given up, "Since no one listens, we have completely given up. At our camp, we give them vegetarian meals but if they sneak out and eat, what choice are we really left with."