Nov 24, 2011, exactly five years ago from today was memorable for many reasons. On a not so cold winter morning, we (our son Hriday, my colleague Parineeta, whom we picked up from the airport, she arrived that morning from Pune and myself) started in Amir Singh’s car. Amir Singh has been driving us around for over a decade now.
We were headed for Narora, on the way we saw large number of winter migratory birds, Parineeta rather excitedly identifies a number of them and wanted to stop to take photos. Hriday was also very curious and interested in the birds and water bodies.
At Narora we saw the barrage on Ganga, diverting most of the water of the mighty Ganga to the Lower Ganga canals going to large number of districts of Uttar Pradesh. The 922.7 m long barrage, called Choudhary Charansinh Barrage, has capacity to divert 240 cumecs (cubic meters for second) of water, which means very little water flows to the downstream river in most non monsoon months. The water diverted also goes for thermal power project, the Narora Atomic Power Station and also industries and urban areas.
But what took us to Narora was something totally different. This barrage constructed during 1962 to 1967 has a unique feature: a fish pass. This is to facilitate the fish to travel from downstream to upstream. When we visited the barrage, we did see some water flowing down the pass, but we did not see any fish travelling up the fish ladder. However, the WWF-India Field office friends we were visiting told us that in monsoon a lot of fish does climb up. We also realized that the size of the fish ladder was too small for larger fish like dolphins which exist even today upstream from the barrage.
So the most remarkable thing was that a barrage constructed way back in 1960s, had a functioning fish pass. That means not only was there consciousness about the need for fish to travel up the dam, but they also managed to design one that functions even today in monsoon, as we are told. Unfortunately, none of the dams recently constructed has functioning fish ladder, even though a number of them have fish ladders, including Farakka, Larji Dam in Himachal Pradesh and Kurichu in Bhutan.
After late road side lunch of Chhole Kulche, our return journey was quite eventful. We were stuck in bad traffic jam for almost two full hours. We spent the time talking, taking notes about the visit and listening to radio, among others.
The World Fisheries day has just gone by on Nov 21. But it seems we have a long long way to travel before the fish in our rivers have better future.
In the meantime, we continue to rejoice with the sweet memories of that day five years ago.
Himanshu Thakkar (email@example.com), SANDRP