Home Feature Fishing community of Kashmir struggles for survival amid loss of fish

Fishing community of Kashmir struggles for survival amid loss of fish

Fishing community of Kashmir struggles for survival amid loss of fish

Scientific evidence reveal that there will be more devastating climatic effects on natural resources in Kashmir which will disproportionately hit poor communities

Nusrat Sidiq 

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

In a small room of his house in Indian-administered Kashmir, 54-year-old Ali Mohammad Dar is assembling his fishing equipment – a net, a Panzar (a kind of long thin rod), a fishing basket, and a plastic bucket – to go fishing and earn his livelihood.

He placed all these items in his fishing boat and set sail for fishing in Dal Lake, the second largest lake and a major tourist attraction in the region, which is situated 9.6 kilometers (6 miles) away from the capital city Srinagar.

Dar learned the art of fishing from his grandfather and has been in this business since he was a young boy.

In those early years of his life, he would accompany his grandfather Mohammad Subhaan Dar to the Dal Lake.

“Fish would outnumber everything in those days. Even if one put his hand directly in the water, he would have got a handful of fish.”

“But today even spending hours, the catch is very minimum,” Dar said.

‘Man-made disaster’

Dar explained that fish reduction has drastically impacted the fishing community of Kashmir where many families have relocated to other places to earn their living.

Around 700-800 members of the community still live around the peripheries of the lake which once had over 10,000 members of the community living there.

thumbs_b_c_73ccd1124e344f0dabcf7653bb720a7d“I think over 50% of people of our community have left this occupation and taken up other jobs. When there is no fish, how will you feed your family,” Dar said.

The lake has lost nearly about 25% of its area in the last 157 years due to unregulated changes in land use and land cover, according to a research study.

Many research studies also point out that excessive pollution, untreated sewerage, open drains, and usage of excessive fertilizers and pesticides have impacted the breeding ground of the fish which in turn has killed many local fish species.

Ajaz Rasool, a former hydraulic engineer who has worked on many conservation projects in the region, told Anadolu that unless and until steps are taken to check pollution, improve catchment areas and regulate water management in the region, “it is going to affect each one of us be it a fisherman, a farmer or any other person.”

thumbs_b_c_73ccd1124e344f0dabcf7653bb720a7d-1“It is obvious that when we pollute our water resources, how come our fauna or flora will survive?

“It is a man-made disaster,” Rasool said.

One of the studies conducted in 2016 about the probable impacts of human-induced climate change on natural resources in Kashmir revealed that the loss of certain indigenous food varieties, reduction in natural forest cover (less than 11%), and loss of important water resources have aggravated the already dilapidated situation in the region.

It further said that scientific evidence revealed that there will be more devastating climatic effects on natural resources in Kashmir which will disproportionately hit poor communities, particularly dry land farmers, forest dwellers, and fishermen.

Threat to food sector, livelihood

The fishing sector is an important part of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy, contributing 23% to the state’s GDP, alongside agriculture. Nearly 93,000 people are dependent on this sector for their livelihood.

However, the decreasing number of fish poses a threat not only to the environment but also to the food sector and the livelihoods of those engaged in this sector.

thumbs_b_c_73ccd1124e344f0dabcf7653bb720a7d-2According to the Department of Fisheries of Jammu and Kashmir region, the region produces nearly 20,000 tons of fish annually whereas its demand is 163,136 tons which means the region is highly deficient in fish production.

“If only 50% population of the Jammu and Kashmir region consumes fish, still it is deficient by 81,568 tons,” Masood H Balkhi, dean of the Faculty of Fisheries of Kashmir Agricultural University, told Anadolu.

In one of his research papers, Balkhi explains the number of local fish species has drastically decreased over the years either due to the introduction of exotics or anthropogenic pressures.

“Schizothorax fish that was once reportedly abundant in Dal Lake is poorly represented in the lake. Similarly, almost all species of schizothorax fish have been wiped off from Khushhal Sar Lake, and Brari Nambal Basin of Dal Lake due to organic pollution,” he said

Though the Fisheries Department in the region has built up over a thousand fish farms, which it touts as a good source of employment and fish generation, Dar and his community don’t see any benefits from them.

He said a fisherman cannot survive on a man-made farm. “We have lived for decades in this water. It is like our abode of peace and survival,” he said.


Courtesy: Anadolu Agency (Posted on 04.04.2023)  


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