Wild Buzz: Very fishy at Sukhnapunjab Updated: Feb 04, 2018 12:35 IST
A dead ‘Perch’ fish and (right) a Pallas’ gull at Sukhna’s regulator end.(Vikram Jit Singh and Darshan Sidhu)
Very fishy at Sukhna
For past three weeks, the odour of dead fish has lingered at Sukhna lake’s regulator-end. Mystified walkers have noted a few dead fish. A most unnatural spectacle was afforded with dying fish swimming feebly to the shores in the throes of death. House crows, Black kites, Pallas’s gull, Black-headed and Brown-headed gulls and Eurasian coots nibbled at floating carcasses though Great cormorants avoided the dead, preferring live fish shikar instead!
Walkers saw but a fraction of dead fish numbers as forests and wildlife department labourers scooped many hundreds of rotting fish and quietly buried them along the nallah flowing in from Saketri. The dead specimens hailed from the ‘Perch’ group of fishes and were of size, 10-15 cm. Two coots died in the same period and were buried in similar, unofficial fashion.
The deaths required investigation not a pre-emptive file closure. Based on field observations, this writer informed Dr Kanwarjit Singh, joint director, animal husbandry and fisheries department, who got two samples of dead fish and a can of water lifted on Tuesday and dispatched to PU’s zoology department.
“On examination, I found very fine algae choking the gills of fish samples. The water’s dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) was suspected to be on the lower side as that part of the lake has stagnant water. Poisoning was ruled out as other aquatic species would have also been hit . The reason why only one kind of fish has been affected is because either ‘Perch’ fish is in dominating numbers at the regulator-end or it is more susceptible to the prevailing aquatic conditions,” Dr YK Rawal, assistant professor, zoology, told.
THE BEAUTIFUL DAMNED
Driving along the Shivalik foothills at sunset, one is awed by mustard blooms set aglow in soft light like a ‘mela of diyas’. Flanking the fields are a few peepul trees, standing mute witness to the ecological ravages and agrarian evolution of this fragile landscape. Undulating plains unraveling from the Shivaliks constitute the last steps down from the lofty temple of the Himalayas.
A tall, hunchback peepul tree, with upper limbs lopped off, stands sentinel to a petite, abandoned mosque. A brace of kilometres short of Mirzapur dam does stand this derelict memorial to the lost Muslim-dominated village of Burana. The mosque is a witness and storyteller of Partition’s ravages and disruption. Burana has ceased to exist, barring the references in revenue records and its mention in Friday’s renewed notification of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900. Burana’s Muslims left during the Partition and Indians reversing their lives from Pakistan were allocated these lands. Part of Burana’s lands were re-sold to sons of the soil from neighbouring Kubheri village.
Kubheri’s clan of Ranjit Singh, who retired from the Artillery’s 159 Medium Regiment, and his father, Tara Singh, who served in the 63rd Cavalry, bought 6.5 acre from Pakistan refugees, with mosque included, just after the Partition. The charming mosque, constructed in the 1930s with iconic Sirhind bricks, was many decades later to turn into a celebrated site for film shoots, including ‘Waris Shah’ starring Gurdaas Maan and Juhi Chawla.
“Muslim houses of Burana were demolished after Partition and undulating lands levelled with the advent of tubewells. The mosque survived — not because of sentiments for another religion’s place of worship — but because the structure sheltered our forefathers in the decades after Partition when it would rain for days on end and disrupt maize sowing. Winter rains would go on for 2-3 days and it would get cold. But the precipitation has waned and winters are much warmer. I lopped the Peepul because its shadow weakened crop growth and leaf fall inundated land, readied for wheat sowing,” Ranjit Singh said.
Shikaris would bag a bountiful of partridges on the wing during a winter day’s excursion along the foothills in the 1960s and 1970s. But casting his memory back in time, Singh notes that the calls of partridges, like the pitter-patter of rains on Peepul leaves, have waned due to pesticides, earth mining and aggressive reclamation of scrub jungle.
The result: much before midnight, the countryside has rendered as hushed and helpless as the onlooking stars. Thus, the silence is obliged to sing a swan song, the loudest requiem for the unborn dead.