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Beas river pollution: Livelihood of hundreds of families takes a hit as fish sale dips

Contractors say fishing has come down from 20 quintals to 1 quintal and that too is not being sold duo to misconception of poisoned river water .

punjab Updated: May 25, 2018 09:46 IST
Anil Sharma
Anil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Beas river pollution,Beas pollution,Beas fish
There was hardly any footfall at the fish market in Amritsar on Thursday.(Sameer Sehgal/HT)

With the sale of fish at its lowest ever in Punjab due to scare among buyers coupled with a dip in fishing in the Beas after molasses from a sugar mill were discharged into the river on May 17, the livelihood of hundreds of families into the business has taken a hit.

Fish sellers and contractors in the state, especially in the Majha region, are witnessing a steep decline in sale due to the misconception among buyers that the river water has been poisoned due to the spill even as the fish died due to diminishing oxygen levels in the water due to mixing of molasses.

They insisted that their losses be recovered from Chadha sugar mill at Kiri Afgana village in Gurdaspur that caused the disaster.

Rajinder Kumar, who owns a wholesale shop in the Amritsar fish market, said, “Due to the misconception among buyers, the sale of fish has gone down by more than 90%. Before the river disaster, 18-20 quintal fish was sold in the market daily but it has come down to just 2 quintal.”

He said it’s the tourists from other states visiting the holy city who are purchasing fish while locals are avoiding buying the same as the government had issued an advisory not to eat fish.

“The advisory should be rectified to save the livelihood of people into the fish business,” he said.

Four persons have got the contract of fishing in the Beas and its tributaries for ₹1.32 crore. Bohar Singh, a contractor whose firm fishes in the Beas and its tributaries in Kapurthala and Ferozepur districts, said, “I along with two contractors paid ₹1.10 crore to the government for fishing in the area.

He said they used to fish around 15 quintals daily but the figure has drastically come down to less than 1 quintal now.

Bohar said, “Due to the factory spill, we are facing huge losses. We have around 500 employees, most of them labourers whose livelihood has been hit. We are planning to move the high court against the mill to recover our losses.”

Nirmal Singh, a vendor at the Harike fish Market in Tarn Taran district, said, “I used to make a sale of ₹8,000-9,000 daily by selling fish pakodas but now the sale is ₹500. Our livelihood has been impacted badly.”

A shopkeeper, who didn’t want to be named, said, “Earlier, several small vendors from villages and towns of the Majha region used to come here to purchase fish but no one is turning up now.”

Sonu, another shopkeeper, said there are 10 to 15 shops that sell fish at Harike, which is considered Majha’s best fresh fish market, sold fish worth ₹50,000 daily but the sale has now dipped to ₹5,000.

Fish contractors in the Majha and Malwa regions said they fished around 20 quintal fish daily before the Beas tragedy but it has dipped to 1 quintal — which too is not being sold due to the scare. Hundreds of their workers have been rendered jobless, they said.

Sushil Kumar, who was awarded the contract to fish in Hoshiarpur and on a 20 km stretch of the Beas in Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts, said he paid ₹19 lakh to the government.

“Before the Beas disaster, we used to fish around 5 quintals daily but now we are getting only 20-30 kg fish in the river,” he said.

First Published: May 25, 2018 09:32 IST