SS Kharat, ichthyologist.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)
SS Kharat, ichthyologist.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

How fresh water fish species in Pune rivers are being ‘murdered’ by effluents

In 1942 during a survey, around 120 fish species were found in the Mula-Mutha river, but now there are only eight fish species present in both the rivers, a 93 per cent decline.
By Shrinivas Deshpande | Hindustan Times, Pune, Pune
UPDATED ON JUN 27, 2018 04:56 PM IST

High pollution levels in river bodies has led to a 93% decline in native fish species in the Mula-Mutha river over the past two decades, according to SS Kharat, ichthyologist and principal of Modern College. In 1942 during a survey, around 120 fish species were found in the Mula-Mutha river, but now there are only eight fish species present in both the rivers.

Rivers in Pune are fast becoming poisonous and inhabitable for a number of fish species. Fresh water catch has declined by 93 per cent during the past two decades, most prominent among them is Mahseer (Tor tor), which was found only in the Pune river basin, and has now become extinct. The decline is mainly because of discharge of untreated industrial effluents into the rivers, added Kharat. 

According to Kharat, rivers in Pune are now almost dead and there are hardly seven-eight fish species present. Fish species like Singhara (Sperata seenghla), Kachaki (Chanda nama), Chilapi (Oreochromis mossambicus) and Punties (Puntius sophore), which are the prominent fish species found in Pune rivers, are nearing extinction, Kharat added. 

Kharat said, “In 1942, British scientist Frazer conducted a detailed survey of the rivers and found 142 different species of fishes. After that, in 2002 we conducted a survey and found 62 species out of which 15 were exotic species. Now, because of untreated effluent being discharged directly into the river, there are hardly seven-eight fish species.” 

Mula and Mutha river were known for Mahseer. The species required fresh water for survival and after the water in Pune rivers started being contaminated, the species started disappearing, according to Kharat. Now, not a single Mahseer fish can be found in the Mula-Mutha river. Explaining the reason, Kharat said, “Untreated effluents is one of the major reasons for reduction of fish species. Also, channelisation of the river done by the civic bodies has disturbed the natural habitat of water bodies.” 

Kharat agreed that there is a need to conduct a scientific survey of the Mula-Mutha basin every 10 years. The survey will help us get a clear idea of the number of species nearing extinction and will help us take necessary action to save them, he said. 

As far as a solution is concerned, Kharat said, “There is a need to construct an ecological park in the river basin to save the fish species. The civic body should identify the species which are near extinction and should take necessary steps to restore them.”

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