Thousands of fish wash ashore in Kashmir’s Jhelum, trigger rumours of poisoning
Kashmir’s fisheries department dismissed rumours of poisoning, saying low oxygen levels, due to pollution, lesser rains and artificial barrier had affected one specie of fish.india Updated: Oct 23, 2017 18:42 IST
Thousands of fish washed ashore onto the banks of Jhelum river in Kashmir on Sunday, alarming people and triggering rumours of poisoning.
Sensing escalation of trouble, the district administration immediately issued a statement urging people “not to panic”.
“We have taken water samples as well as the samples of fish. Most of the fish washed up ashore are not dead, suggesting that the oxygen content of the river water is low,” deputy commissioner, Srinagar, Syed Abid Rashid Shah said.
The incident comes amid the chaos across the Valley due to rising incidents of braid-chopping of women.
The fish — mostly Kashmir’s indigenous specie Schizothorax or Kashir gaed — floated on a 2.5 km stretch of Jhelum in the old city area of Srinagar, prompting people to crowd the banks to watch the unusual phenomenon.
Many locals were seen catching the fish by hand and taking them home. Officials said that even police had to intervene in certain cases to stop people from assembling.
“The fish were alive but very docile. Some people took them home to cook. Many seemed very fearful,” said a local of Chattabal.
The phenomenon, however, triggered more rumours, with some mosques announcing that the fish washed ashore due to poisoning.
Kashmir’s fisheries department prima facie rejected any case of poisoning.
“The fish were alive and only a single species washed ashore. If there was poisoning, every type of fish would have been affected,” said M M Wani, fisheries deputy director, central Kashmir.
He said that after they took samples, they found only Schizothorax was affected.
The official said that there were three reasons that seemed to be responsible for the phenomenon. “Firstly, the level of water in Jhelum is low as there have been no rains for the past three months. Secondly, the concentration of pollutants in this stretch has been very high. Thirdly, to top it all, an artificial barrier near Veer area in old city had slowed down the water flow which reduced oxygen level in water,” Wani said.
Schizothorax, which can go up to 2.5 kg in weight and 60 cm in length, is a sensitive fish. Officials said that it normally lives in clear waters where the level of oxygen level is 4–5 ppm than 2 ppm for specie like common carp.
He said that owing to the high temperatures during the day, a ‘diurnal fluctuation’ in the water made the fish restless. “The fluctuation means differences in oxygen level of water at bottom, middle and top levels of the river prompting the fish to float on surface,” Wani said.
Wani said that they dismantled the artificial barrier immediately after coming to know about it.
He said that they are yet to receive the reports of water samples sent to various laboratories but maintained that the water was stinking.