Thousands of dead fish were found floating in the Brahmaputra river on Sunday, substantiating the claims by Assam officials for some time now that some fishermen were using toxic substances to catch fish during winter.
According to the Assam Pollution Control Board (APCB) officials, the fish started dying mysteriously in a 'ghuli' or lagoon-like stagnant section of the river around 11 am. A drastic drop in the water level results in ghulis near the sandbars.
"We have collected water as well as dead fish samples for study, but this seems to be a case of pesticide," said APCB official Deepak Barua. "From what we have gathered so far, pesticides must have been sprinkled the previous night, which resulted in a dip in the oxygen content in the river water killing the fish."
This particular ghuli, measuring approximately 300 sq ft and connected to the main flow of the river by a narrow stream, is ironically off a high-security zone that includes the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Senior Superintendent of Police and the CCF (Terrestrial).
Incidentally, HT had earlier reported how fish 'mahaldars', who take stretches of rivers on lease for commercial fishing, use pesticides to catch more fish. There had been instances of mahaldars using non-biodegradable pesticides such as Thiodan and Dialdrin, despite being banned.
According to wildlife activist Anwaruddin Choudhury, mahaldars in Assam and elsewhere across north India have a tendency to fish extensively before the rivers run dry in winter. "Up to 20 per cent of river fish sold in the markets during winter are high on pesticides," he said.