Dead fish in Beas river: Dolphins not sighted after killer spill, gharials safe
The death of fish on such a large scale due to the release of molasses from a sugar mill into the Beas has endangered aquatic life in the river, including dolphins and gharials, who feed on them.
The fisheries department said the dead fish include Common Carp, Rohu, Catla, Mrigol, Cat Fish, Singari, Gosh, Bam, Chital, Bata and Sol. They died with the oxygen level plummeting in the river, otherwise known for its clean water, due to the presence of molasses that leaked from Chadha Sugar Industries Private Limited at Kiri Afgana near Sri Hargobindpur town in Gurdaspur district. The sugar mill is located a kilometre from the Beas and its effluents drain into the river through a nullah.
The death of the fish has affected the survival of species that feed on them.
In 2005, the Punjab State Wildlife Board had recommended the reintroduction of gharials in the Beas as it is less polluted than the Sutlej. The gharials, which survive on fish, were brought from Chhatbir Zoo in Mohali and released in the river earlier this year.
District forest officer Charanjit Singh said 47 gharials live in the river and they are all safe. Besides, the river is home to 712 dolphins as per a survey held a few months ago. However, they have not been spotted since the leakage, the DFO said.
Damage at multiple levels
“If these species don’t have food, they won’t survive. It is a matter of concern,” he said. “The species that escaped the impact of the molasses may have a stronger immunity but with the death of others, they have lost their feed. So the damage caused is at multiple levels,” said Gurdaspur DFO Rajesh Mahajan.
Fisheries department assistant director Raj Kumar said that the area affected is large. “The distance from the mill to Harike, the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers, is about 100 km. Dead fish can’t be counted in such a large area,” he said.
Raj Kumar said fish seeds had also perished. “The fish seeds were the yield of the future but their death has hit future generations of fish in the river. The magnitude of the habitat loss is much more,” he said.
Scientists of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana, are examining samples of the fish and will submit their report in two days. “The reduction of oxygen level is the main reason behind the death of the fish,” said Dr Syed Shabih Hassan, who is a part of the university’s team.
On Thursday night, the contaminated water reached Harike, changing its colour to brown. The contaminated water was flowing in both canals, including the Rajasthan feeder, starting from the headworks.