Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk

WFD 2019: Mass Fish Kill Incidents Due to Pollution, Dry Rivers In India

21 November is celebrated as world fisheries day across the world. Apart from crucial source of food and livelihood to lakhs of fisherfolks in India, fish diversity determines the health of the water body including lakes, ponds and rivers. However with growing threats and pollution mass fish mortality has been taking place in various rivers and lakes in the country every year. On World Fisheries Day 2019 SANDRP has put together known mass fish kill incidents that took place this past year to highlight the gravity of threat so that corrective measures can be taken by respective Governments and others concerned.


Jammu & Kashmir Pave da Talab: Jammu Religious place In Oct. 2019 hundreds of fish were found dead in Pave da Talab a religious place. In past too such incidents have been reported there. But the reasons are still unknown.


Himachal Pradesh  Nalagarh river Thousands of small fish were found dead in a river below the Jagatkhana bridge in the Nalagarh industrial area on July 5. Fish mortality during the rains was not new in this area as industrial units don’t operate their effluent treatment plants and often let out untreated water into water bodies. The industrial effluents reduce the biological oxygen content in the water, thereby creating conditions not conducive for the survival of the fish and other aquatic species.

Following the incident, the officials of the HPPCB ordered disconnection of power of two industrial units in the Nalagarh industrial area after they were found exercising laxity in their effluent discharge mechanism.  (11 July 2019)

Muck dumping kills trout fish in Manali A farmer from Kullu district has suffered a loss of Rs 20 lakh as the dumping of muck in the Pakhnoj nullah of Haripur under Manali subdivision has killed trout fish in his farm.

The victim, Khushal Gupta, said the PWD, Kullu, was constructing a new bridge over the nullah and the work had been given to a private company. He said the muck was being dumped into the nullah.  (17 March 2019)

Punjab Ropar The villagers of Chakk Dhir village in Ropar district were in panic after the death of hundreds of fish was reported in a water channel that passes through their village on April 4. The villagers pointed out the fingers towards the nearby cement factory and blamed that the factory has been releasing the affluent in the past too. However, the factory owner and manager denied any role in the death of fish and claimed they had never released any such affluent in the water body.

Kuldip Singh, a villager of Chakk Dhirr village said, “The water from this distributary is further supplied in Sirhind and Doraha for drinking and irrigation purposes. We have warned the nearby villagers to not to consume this water for any purpose including irrigation, or feeding their animals as it has been poisoned with chemicals.” (5 April 2019)

6 tonne fish found dead in 2 Fazilka villages Around six tonne of fish were found dead at two villages in Fazilka district over weekend, reportedly due to water contamination following discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies. Residents of Ghadumi and Afsar Wala, villages located near the Pakistan border, said dead fish were found floating in the water and scattered on the river banks on Aug. 4. Villagers have been complaining of poor quality water being drawn from handpumps at Kadar Baksah, Pucca Chisti, Beri Wala and other villages.

Fishes reportedly due to water contamination following discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies.

Satpal Singh of Ghadumi said authorities had been alerted. “Both the villages are located near the Sabuana drain where untreated sewage from Bathinda and Muktsar districts flows into villages of Fazilka district. Seepage from this drain has also contaminated groundwater in the adjoining area. A complaint about water contamination in Fazilka is already under the purview of the NGT,” he said.  (13 Aug. 2019)

Chandigarh Dhanas lake Fish in large number was found dead in Dhanas lake. Following this, administration restricted entry of people in the lake & warned people against consuming the fish. The dead fish were buried.  (21 Aug. 2019)

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Department of the Forest, which maintains the lake, had sent the water samples to the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee after the incident. It has also sent the samples of the dead fish to Panjab University. The report revealed that lack of oxygen in water was one of the reasons for the death of the fish. The CPCC official said after heavy rain a lot of mud and silt had entered the lake, reducing the oxygen level.  (22 Aug. 2019)

A similar incident had taken place in July 2015 also.  (13 July 2015)

Haryana Fish die in Yamuna river Around Oct. 22, several fish were reported dead in Yamuna river at Sanouli Panipat due to discharge of industrial waste water. A similar incident had occurred in Aug. in Mathura but there is no media report on these fish death.

Aug. 2019 video of mass fish death at Gokul Barrage by Nakul Shastri, Mathura.

Uttar Pradesh Fish die in Keetham lake In a horrific turn of events, hundreds of fish were found dead in Agra’s Keetham lake on June 23. It is believed that the fishes died due to the severely polluted water being dumped into the Keetham reservoir which had dropped the dissolved oxygen levels to almost nil in the water body. The post mortem of the fish has revealed that they died of oxygen deficiency in the water. A physical survey of the lake’s water source revealed that the Agra canal was indeed bringing in a lot of industrial waste into the Keetham lake.  (25 June 2019)

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Locals demand inquiry.  (25 June 2019)

Kuano River  Fish in large number were found dead in Kuano river on Nov. 2. In the afternoon, the buffalo of the farmer of Piprajapti village of Walterganj police station also died suddenly. Head of Department of Zoology, Dr. JP Shukla said that chromium used in colors is the cause of death of fish in Kuano. Due to this effect, fish gills are jammed and they cannot breathe. In the past, azodai has been used in the colors used to beautify the idols immersed in the rivers, which contains chromium.  (2 Nov. 2019)


Manipur Kanglapat Scores of dead fish reared by Fishery department at Kanglapat (moat) located on the southern side of Officers Colony, Sanjenthong were found floating on the water surface in March 2019. Although the exact cause of the deaths are yet to be ascertained, it is speculated that high pollution level in the water body may have killed the fish. In addition, as Kanglapat is a stagnant water body, the fish may have died due to low level of dissolved oxygen in the water along with damage caused to the ecosystem by installation of stone embankments. Furthermore, the drainage pipeline from Officers Colony falling into the water body may have affected the overall aquatic environment, thus killing the fish.  (15 March 2019)

Tripura Concern over death of fishes in Rudra Sagar lake Fear grew among the residents around Rudrasagar over large scale death of fishes in the lake and the bad smell coming out of it is polluting the area. The local fisherman attributed it to massive growth of hycinth plant that is covering the surface of the water body and causing deficiency of Oxygen and hindering the free movement of the fishes. There are some local nalas or cherras that flows through paddy lands in nearby areas. It is possible that these nalas or cherras are carrying pesticides and fertilisers from nearby farms polluting the lake water.  (7 Oct. 2019)


Bihar  1.20 lakh fish died  Poisonous substances were dumped in the Banaghara Pokhar of Suresh Narayan of Banaghara village in Sewipatti police station area. Due to this all the fish of Pokhar died. The victim said that about one lakh twenty thousand fish died.  (5 Nov. 2019)

Chhattisgarh Pond in Rajnandgaon Villagers and fishermen got into a dispute in the Gram Panchayat Dhaba adjoining Gandai in the district about leasing the pond. After this, someone put poison in the village pond.  (21 June 2019)

Jharkhand  Ranchi after Diwali and Durga Puja Thousands of dead fish were found floating on the pond on Oct. 28 at Line Tank Pond in Chadari in Ranchi. Environmentalists say that the immersion of Goddess Durga idols and Deepawali caused the death of the fishes.

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The ponds were not cleaned after the immersion of the Goddess Durga idols. The concretisation of the peripheries of the pond is also one of the reasons for the lack of oxygen. The natural way of flow of water and oxygen has been restricted which caused the death of the fishes.  (29 Oct. 2019)

West Bengal Santragachhi Jheel The Howrah Municipal Corp launched a clean-up of the water hyacinth that covered large swathes of the 33-acre Santragachhi Jheel even as fisheries department collected samples of dead fish found floating again on April 2. Locals said the number of dead fish, including rohu, katla, telapiya and silver carp, was higher than that of April 1. On April 1, 80 buckets of dead fish were lifted from the lake. Jiban Saha, a local residing opposite the jheel, said: “We can’t stay here. The smell of dead fish has filled the sir. Nothing is being cleaned.”

Environmentalist Subhash Datta said, “Both HMC and the railways are responsible for such large-scale fish mortality and water contamination. In 2017, NGT had directed both the organisations to jointly set up a treatment plant to ensure that the lake remains clean. This directive had not been implemented by the two organisations that only hold discussions. The aquatic life cycle in the jheel had been severely damaged because of reluctance of both railways and HMC. I will move NGT on fish mortality at Santragachhi Jheel.”  (3 April 2019)


Madhya Pradesh Fishes dying due to cancer developed in polluted water bodies  The College of Fishery Science, Jabalpur, after testing the samples of dead fishes over a span of past 4 years concluded fish died after developing cancer-specially skin cancer in them. The problem is more pertinent in fish of still water bodies, but fish in rivers are also under threat.

The institute tested the samples after the state’s fishermen societies and Krishi Vigyan Kendras asked it look into the reasons for death of fishes in water bodies across the state. The Institute studied samples of dead fishes from different water bodies of Mandla, Dindori, Seoni, Balaghat, Jabalpur, Rewa among other places. The study also found fishes to be more prone to skin cancers and once a fish develops cancer, the entire group in the environment are at a high risk of developing it.

Dean of the college, Shashikant Mahajan said, “Cancer develops in fishes found in water bodies with high level of heavy metals and plastic. If any humans consume a fish with deadly disease, they would also get ill due to hydro aquatic bacteria and may have problems like vomiting, upset stomach and diarrhoea.” A very common symptoms of deadly disease in a fish is reduction in natural shine of the fish. Reddishness in body parts changes to whiteness and a pale white layer over eyes. In water, the movement of fish with disease also gets slower, he added.

While the release of heavy metals, plastic, sewage leading to reduction oxygen levels in water is the chief cause of cancer in fish of still water, sand mining is also among the major reasons of polluted river water leading to deadly disease in fishes. “Major reason of disease in river fishes is mining, slowing down the natural filtration process”, Mahajan added. Experts also pointed the problem is not common in any particular type of fish, but fishes found in confined waters like Magur and Singhi are more exposed to polluted water, thus being more at risk. According to the experts, solution to problem is to avoid release of heavy metals, sewage and plastic in water, while release of fresh water in still water bodies can reduce heavy metals in water that could give safer environment to fishes.  (18 July 2019)

Fish kills related to sewage effluents in lakes  Contamination of water due to sewage and industrial effluents is killing fish in large numbers in lakes and ponds in some districts, a study has found. Release of sewage and industrial chemicals in water bodies leads to growth of bacteria and fungi which are harmful for fish, said Dr Shashikant Mahajan, Dean of Government Fisheries College in Jabalpur.

“During tests for toxicity in samples of dead fish, including some received from fish farmers, it was found that fish were dying because of bacterial and fungal infections,” he said. In the last two-three years, samples received from Jabalpur, Mandla, Balaghat, Rewa and some other districts and tested at the college’s laboratory showed that sewage discharge was affecting the fish’s health, he said. Erosion and disintegration of the fin and tail indicated that bacterial pathogens were present in the water, Mahajan added. The fish’s skin was also found damaged with deep lesions caused by infection, he said. Presence of metals was also found in some samples, he added.  (22 July 2019)

Gambhir river water turns red near Mhow causing fish death Villagers were shocked to see red water in Gambhir river in Dhannad area on Oct. 22 morning. The water of the Gambhir river appeared red on the Kalaria culvert in the Dhannad area. Visitors said that the water was so polluted that a large number of fish appeared dead. Later, the municipal team went to Pithampur to investigate which factories are getting contaminated water into the river.

The problem of getting polluted water in Gambhir has existed for a long time. Due to this, fish are also dying in the river. Yashwant Sagar Dam is built on the river Gambhir. The water of Yashwant Sagar, which supplies drinking water to Indore, has become prone to pollution. The people of Dhannad told that the filth is being discharged from the factories every day. Sometimes due to their high volume, the water looks red and smells bad too.

Dhannad and the surrounding area is already grappling with the problem of pollution. Polluted water has leached into the ground and ground water has also been contaminated in the area. People are unable to use it for drinking. There has complaints of adverse effects on crops.  (23 Oct. 2019)

Maharashtra Pavana Poisoning kills fish in Pavana On Feb. 6 2019 there was mass fish kill in Pavana river, Pune due to release of chemicals without treatment by laundry companies.  (Feb. 2019)

Pavana again Hundreds of dead fish were again found floating on the surface of Pavana river in Thergaon on June 21 night after similar incident in February.

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Social activist Raju Salve said, “Every summer, water hyacinth grows and forms a green carpet on the river. Fish and other aquatic animals in river die after dissolved oxygen levels reduce alarmingly due to the rise in pollution. PCMC must ensure that domestic sewage and other pollutants do not enter the river.” Pradeep Walhekar, president, Rotary Club of Walhekarwadi, said some industries and laundries upstream of Kejudevi bund were releasing untreated waste into the river.  (25 May 2019)

See a video report on the issue here.  (25 May 2019)

Godavari river  Locals in Nagaon village claim that dropping water level in Godavari river is killing thousands of fishes. There is no drinking water available for humans or animals, they add.

Visuals of scores of fishes floating lifelessly atop river Godavari also serve as a warning sign for residents and concerned officials in Maharashtra which is staring at a severe drought.  (12 May 2019)

Indrayani Villagers in Dehu were shocked to see hundreds of dead fish floating in the waters of the Indrayani on June 9 morning. By afternoon, the villagers said, the 1km river stretch got a thick cover of dead fish.

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Villager Prashant Kalokhe said, “It was extremely unfortunate that around 7,000-8,000 fish died. Some of the fish were 2-3ft long. Fish death in such a huge scale here was reported around 20 years ago, when an industrial unit in the Talegaon MIDC area had released untreated effluents into the river.” Maharashtra Pollution Control Board officials said that the rising summer temperature, low water levels and the untreated domestic sewage in the Indrayani river might have killed thousands of fish.

Sanjay Jambhulkar, another villager, said, “”Untreated sewage is released into the Indrayani for over the years, right from the Lonavala town to the end of the river. But such fish death incident has not occurred before. We cannot rule out any foul play.” Hundreds of dead fish were found floating on the surface of Pavana river in Thergaon in May. Similar occurrence was reported from Thergaon in Feb.  (11 June 2019)

As per Mahesh Mahajan, president Friends of Nature, NGO, in 1982, the Mahaseer fish went extinct as a chemical solution was mixed into the Indrayani river water. The Government of India declared Mahaseer as endangered species. We then restored the fish and released 39,000 fish in 2009, 2010 and 2011 into the river.

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On May 30, 2019, 19 sheep had allegedly died in Chikhali after drinking water from Indrayani river. Baban Tambe, who raises goats and sheep for a livelihood, had taken animals to the Indrayani riverbed at Sonawane Basti for grazing. He claimed that after drinking water from the river, animals started feeling uneasy and around noon on the same day their stomach bloated, following which they died.  (11 June 2019)

Faecal pollution in Mahim creek, big threat to fish Faecal coliform (FC) an indication of human and animal excreta in Mahim creek is 180 times the safe limit prescribed by the CPCB making it unsuitable for the survival of any aquatic life, says a study by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research – Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai, which was published in the Indian Journal of Ecology recently.  (12 May 2019)

Gujarat Narmada Dam  A large number of fish reportedly died in the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Locals say presence of some chemical is responsible for this though exact cause is not known. The dam water is used for providing drinking water to large number of people. (1 Feb. 2019)

Sardar Sarovar Nigam claims the dam water is potable, but reason for the fish death is not known.

New speculation about the cause of toxicity in Narmada dam waters in Gujarat says it could be due to seismic activity! “According to SSNNL officials, the monsoon deficit for the last two years and the simultaneous increase in the height of the dam meant that there was no overflow from the reservoir, thus causing the water to remain stagnant for over two years. “The presence of the original aquatic flora and fauna, as well as the silt in the stagnant water, can result in acidic reactions with the oxygen in the water.”   (7 Feb.2019) 

Sabarmati Massive fish die-off 

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Hundreds of fishes in the Sabarmati have died due to pollution and water stagnation. With no release of fresh Narmada water, severe algae bloom has occurred depleting dissolved oxygen in the river. Summer temperatures had affected the water which is heating faster locally due to stagnation and lack of current causing fish to die.  (4 April 2019)


Andhra Pradesh Krishna River Water, fish contaminated by heavy metals Study finds Krishna river water in Vijayawada as well as the fish caught from the Prakasam barrage reservoir contaminated by heavy metals. Among the four metals present in water samples, zinc was found in higher concentration, followed by lead, cadmium and mercury.

In case of fish samples, cadmium was in higher quantity than the three other heavy metals. Stating that there was high incidence of bioaccumulation of the heavy metal contaminants in both water and the fish samples, the study warned that it is an “indication of severe toxicity which will cause ill health in human beings”. (27 Feb. 2019)

“The micro-crustaceans which are important feed for fish have come down drastically. As a result, the catch and the size of fish too have come down drastically, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen. “The Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary has now a small population of endangered Fishing Cats which prey on fish species. These mammals that are on the top of the food chain will perish if the fish population in the river keeps diminishing,” the scientist observed.  (5 June 2019)

Fishermen worried over spurt in fish-kill Unscientific disposal of industrial effluents and domestic sewage has led to an increased incidence of fish-kill, forcing fishermen to press the panic button.

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“Fish-kill incidents have become very common in Pudimadaka, Mutyalammapalem, Tikkavanipalem, Chinanagyamalapalem & Appikonda areas. Authorities have turned a deaf ear to our pleas to curb ocean pollution,” said National Fisherfolk Forum general secretary.  (9 June 2019)

Telangana Lakaram lake Heaps of dead fish surfaced on the Lakaram lake on Sept. 9, much to the shock of health enthusiasts, who had descended on the picturesque tank bund abutting the water body for a morning walk. As foul smell emanated from the pile of dead fish, the passers by alerted the Fisheries Department who rushed to the spot and collected the samples of water and dead fish for analysis. The analysis of water and the dead fish samples reportedly showed traces of oil droplets and oil slime in the digestive tract of the dead fish. The Fisheries Department suspected it to be a case of either water contamination due to possible leakage of fuel from the boats being operated in the lake or a bacterial infection.

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The members of the local Fishermen Cooperative Society removed the dead fish from the water body. The incident comes close on the heels of release of thousands of fish fingerlings into the lake by the Fisheries Department a few days ago. The lake, dating back to the Kakatiya era, was rejuvenated under the State government’s tank restoration project titled Mission Kakatiya in 2018 and subsequently, boat services were introduced in the water body as part of a grand plan to make it a recreational spot.  ( 10 Sept. 2019)

CAUVERY Even the available water remains extremely contaminated causing irreparable damage to both soil and agriculture. Chemical factories located in the close vicinity of the Stanley Reservoir in Mettur have been identified as major polluters of the river. Mass fish mortality is reported from the delta region regularly. In the downstream region, tens of small- and medium-scale chemical industries continue to discharge their effluents through natural drains and engineered canals into the Kaveri.  (1 April 2019)

Karnataka Seegehalli lake Locals residing near the Seegehalli lake woke up on Dec. 29 morning to the sight of thousands of dead fishes floating on the banks of the lake. Residents said that inflow of underground drainage (UGD) into the water body may have led to the decimation of marine life. They also claimed that the lake’s design was flawed since the inlet pipe was directly connected to the Storm Water Drain (SWD). Therefore, the SWD overflows and silt gets deposited every time it rains even a little.

In Oct. 2018, a similar incident was reported from the Madiwala lake where dead fish and snails were found floating on the surface in thousands. Citizens claim that these instances are the result of pollution of the city’s water bodies by residents in addition to the discharge of effluents into them. (30 Dec. 2018)

Sheelavantanakere lake After fire and foam in the city’s lakes, thousands of dead fish have now washed up on the shores of Sheelavantanakere lake at Nallurahalli, Whitefield in Bengaluru. A local fisherman from the area said that the number of dead fish is increasing by the day. “The lake is known for fishing from many years, but this incident is the first time that quintals of fish are found dead in this lake,” said Bhadaraiah.

According to residents, the lake is contaminated due to the sewage inflows from three main gutters, especially from Nallurahalli side and as one of the sewage pipelines has been blocked, this has led to pollution in the lake. “The initial investigation, the fish might have died due to the sewage inflow into the lake. However, this is the first time such an incident has been reported and we are investigating to find out the exact reason for this incident”, said a govt official.  (21 Sept. 2019)

River Tunga  In a disturbing sight, several fishes were found lying dead on the banks of river Tunga in Matturu-Hosahalli village on April 24. After the incident, villagers were reportedly afraid of using the river water for potable and other purposes. “Since the last five or six days, the colour of the river water turned green and fishes in it have been dying. The local populace in villages use the river water for drinking but people are now afraid to do so,” said Bhanu Prakash, a villager. Villagers said that officials visited the site and took samples of fishes and the water to be tested.

Pic courtesy/Twitter/ANI

Tunga river originates in the Western Ghats and provides clean drinking water to many cities including Shivamoga. Along the bank many villages use the same water for irrigation as well. It joins Bhadra and flows further to middle Karnataka and feeds thousands of hectares of land and provides drinking water to lakhs of people.  (25 April 2019)

Villagers protest A day after the fish kill in the Tunga river in Matturu and Hosahalli was widely reported in the media, the Hosahalli gram panchayat has lodged a complaint with the police suspecting mixing of copper sulphate into the river as the reason for the death of fish. The exact cause for the fish kill, however, is yet to be ascertained.

The GP’s panchayat development officer filed the complaint with the Tunga Nagar police expressing doubt that the fish kill could have occurred owing to chemical contamination of the river water. Deputy Commissioner K A Dayanand said that in order to flush out the stagnant water and increase the dissolved oxygen level, water has been released into the river from the Tunga dam in Gajanur.  (27 April 2019)  

Hundreds of fish found dead in rivulet Following the death of scores of fish in Kamini rivulet at Hejamadi Muttalive area, officials from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute visited the spot and collected the samples of fish and water at the estuary where the water from river enters the sea.

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Hejamadi Gram Panchayat Vice President Sudkahar Karkera said, “The construction of a bridge at Muttalive at a cost of Rs 80 lakh, had blocked the flow of water from Kamini rivulet on one side of the bridge. As a result, the fish might have died due to lack of oxygen.” Karkera said, “As sand had accumulated in the estuary of the Kamini River, the panchayat cleared the river path allowing the water to flow to the Arabian sea. However, this year, water is contaminated.” Fishermen were carrying out fishing in the rivulet till recently. The death of fish had created tension among the residents.  (24 June 2019)  

Kerala Dead fish, oil films float in city rivers  Dead fish and films of oil now float in the city’s rivers. While the fish kill occurred in the Muttarpuzha (a tributary of the Periyar) near the Manjummel regulator-cum-bridge over the last two days, reddish layers of oil have been found in the Periyar over the last three days near the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge in Eloor in the city.    (20 Dec.2018)

Summer triggered more fish kills in Periyar Over Jan month, the Eloor-Edayar stretch of the Periyar river not only changed colours, but also witnessed fish kills. At that time it was feared that this would likely to happen more regularly with progress of  summer when water flow decreases, says scientist Bijoy Nandan, professor at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat).

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The scientist, who was commissioned by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to study fish kill in this stretch of the Periyar, says their report – submitted nearly 4 years ago and which found low dissolved oxygen levels in the water as well as high concentrations of heavy metals in some areas – had made numerous recommendations to revive the river over the long term and improve water quality. However, many crucial suggestions were not implemented, he adds. (2 Feb. 2019)

Industrial effluents killing fish in Periyar river, protest Kochi fishermen Fishermen in the area were facing huge financial losses due to reoccurring fish kills in the river for past few years. Eloor, a small municipality in Ernakulam district, which is located between two distributaries of the Periyar river, houses more than 200 industries. It is alleged that effluents from this industrial belt is the cause for pollution.

Fishermen, Rajan said, can often predict the days when fishes will be found dead. “On such days, the river will be yellowish in colour in the morning. By noon, it will be reddish and by evening it turns milky. Even under these circumstances, officials of KSPCB often denies the fact that industrial effluents have a role in this,” said Rajan. Fishes like ‘Poolan’ or Tank Gopy, which dwell inside the mud can even be seen floating dead when water changes its colour. According to fishermen, the mud-dwelling fish usually have more resistance than others.

Around 350 traditional fishermen in Varapuzha took part in a protest march to the surveillance centre of KSPCB in Eloor on Feb. 28, where these industries were located. The members of fishermen’s forum under the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh which led the protest said that a petition will soon be filed in the High Court. They alleged inaction on the part of officials of KSPCB in taking action on the erring industries. “Though KSPCB officials in Eloor told us today that they will forward the matter to higher ups, we do not believe that will bring any change. So we have decided to take up this matter to the court,” said Rajan. 

The deep distrust among the fishermen is owing to a report by KSPCB. The November report by the Surveillance Centre of KSPCB at Eloor, appeared to exonerate industries located on the banks of the Periyar river. While it stated that water quality is being assessed by the surveillance centre, the report claimed that only six industries released effluents into the river.

According to the report, some industries which were not functioning store harmful chemical waste in its premises. “Steps have been initiated to remove those waste from the area,” said the report. Moreover, the report also listed other reasons for the pollution. “The Pathalam regulator cum bridge is constructed across the river to regulate salt water intrusion in the river. But because of improper functioning of the regulator, quality of water gets affected at times,” report added.  (1 March 2019)

Fish continue to die in Periyar as authorities pass the buck Incidents of fish deaths in the Periyar river passing through Ernakulam district became quite frequent in following months, raising concerns about the pollution levels in the water body. However, despite numerous protests by environment activists as well as the fishing community, no concrete action was taken. In the most recent incident, about hundred Indian anchovies (Kozhuva) were found dead along the banks of the Muttar river, a tributary of the Periyar, at Manjummel on April 8 morning.

According to KSPCB officials, the fish deaths were a result of eutrophication. Eutrophication happens when a water body becomes excessively rich in nutrients, promoting algae growth. This results in depletion of oxygen in the water for organisms such as fish. However, the KSPCB passed the buck to the Irrigation Dept. The latter was in charge of operating the regulator-cum-bridge that regulates the quantity of water in the Muttar.  (8 April 2019)

A stretch of Muttar river near Manjummal regulator-cum-bridge turned black again allegedly due to the release of septic tank waste. Fish kill was also reported as a result of discolouration. Environmentalist Purushan Eloor said that septic waste and water discharged from commercial and residential units at Kalamassery, Edappally and container freight stations ends up in Muttar river.  (8 April 2019)

In late May, KSPCB decided to carry out a comprehensive scientific study involving multiple agencies to ascertain the exact causes of frequent fish kills in Periyar river. Stating that it was not merely industrial discharge that was responsible for the fish kills, Dr. Haridas said that eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients in a waterbody due to run-off from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life) may have led to fish kills in the region.

The board chairman pointed out that pollutants generated on the stretch was accumulating in the area as the shutters of the regulator-cum-bridge at Pathalam remain closed during summer to check saline water intrusion from the sea. “It’s like a dam where pollutants accumulate leading to eutrophication,” he said. Other recommendations included establishing a common industrial effluents treatment facility into which waste from houses, slaughterhouses and other small-scale industries can also be released and then treated water could be used for irrigation.  (25 May 2019)

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In Mid June, a State Level Monitoring Committee appointed by the NGT observed that the discharge of untreated sewage and waste water from Kalamassery township and market and leachates from local body’s waste dumping yard in north Kalamassery had led to the frequent fish death incidents in Periyar river.  (16 June 2019) 

In July, with monsoon gathering pace, the companies along the Eloor industrial belt are discharging a large volume of effluents into the Periyar, say  residents.  (12 July 2019)

PCB drafts new action plan to tackle Periyar pollution Adding to a slew of plans and attempts to control pollution in the Periyar river, another action plan was drafted by the KSPCB to address the persistent issue of the city’s filthy drinking water source. Of the 14 effluent-generating industries, 8 were allowed to discharge treated effluents into the river and all have installed treatment plants, as per the KSPCB plan. But according to residents, frequent colour changes of river water, fish kills and foul smelling water in the Kuzhikandam creek pointed to the continued discharge of chemicals into the Periyar.

The last fish kill in the river was in the first week of Aug. 2019. “There is hardly any fish any more. We used to be able to spot the fish in the water and catch them without nets,” said 66-year-old Shashi, who has been fishing in the Periyar for 24 years. “The KSPCB boat goes past once in a while. Their explanation is always that the fish do not get enough oxygen. What about the chemicals that flow in from the industries upstream when the shutters of the Pathalam regulator are open?” Ms. Rajendran said a few years ago, the Kuzhikandamthodu was filthier. “After Merchem Ltd, which manufactured rubber chemicals, closed in 2015, the condition of the creek improved,” she said.  (16 Sept. 2019)

In Oct. KSPCB proposed to slap a fine of ₹40.85 lakh on Kalamassery municipality under the ‘polluter pays principle’ for its failure to comply with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, at its dump yard at North Kalamassery.

The assessment made by the Kochi wing of the board was placed before the State Level Monitoring Committee on Solid Waste Management appointed by the NGT for final approval.  The penalty on the basis of the ‘polluter pays principle’ was fixed based on the finding that unscientific waste management at the municipality’s dump yard at North Kalamassery had resulted in leachate flowing from the site to the nearby Thoombunkal Thodu. Inspections by board officials found that it resulted in the pollution of the Periyar.  (1 Oct. 2019)

Tamil Nadu Tiruneermalai lake After tonnes of dead fish carcasses floated at the Tiruneermalai lake for days, spreading a foul stench, locals volunteered to join hands and remove the fish kill in Chennai. Volunteers took matters into their own hands after govt agencies responsible for the lake’s upkeep failed to clear the stinking trash. Meanwhile, Fisheries dept officials collected samples from the lake to ascertain the reason behind the fish kill.  (10 June 2019)

Selva Chinthamani lake As Tamil Nadu faced its worst-ever drought, several dead fish were seen lying on the periphery of the dried up Selva Chinthamani Lake in Coimbatore. The Selva Chinthamani Lake has dried up due to the prolonged heatwave in the state and lack of rainfall.  (21 June 2019)

Dhanushkodi Backwater Dead fish were seen floating in the backwater besides Kothandaramaswamy Temple near Dhanushkodi on Oct. 19 morning. Fishermen in the area said that the cause of the death of the fish, locally known as Koi fishes, may be attributed to the mixing of cold rainwater in the warm backwater. We are now removing the dead fishes as if it is left in the water, it will stink and pollute the water,” Senthilkumar, a local fisherman said.  “The amount of fish which is being removed will be around 10 tonnes,” he added.

Dead Fishes Seen Floating In Backwater

Last week, pictures of dead fish floating were seen floating in Valankulam Lake in Coimbatore. This is not the first the Valankulam lake had set off alarm bells. Last year in July, local fishermen has noticed several dead fish floating in the river.

Officials there could not ascertain the real cause for the deaths but environmentalists suspect water contamination with highly toxic sewage as one of the primary reasons.  (19 Oct. 2019)

Dhanushkodi backwaters The backwaters in Dhanushkodi witnessed mass fish deaths on Oct. 19, owing to a depletion of the oxygen level in the shallow waters. The incident was similar to to the one that occurred recently on the seashore in the Gulf of Mannar, where fish died due to the sudden blooming of micro-algae. About three tonnes of fish were found dead at the backwaters in the lagoons adjacent to the Kothandaramar temple in Dhanushkodi, triggering panic among the fisher folk in the area.

Image result for dhanushkodi witnessed mass fish deaths"

Scientists from Mandapam Regional Centre of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute and officials from the Fisheries Department examined the dead fish and identified them as ‘Koimeen’. R. Jayakumar, scientist in-charge, CMFRI, said the fish entered the lagoons en masse. The fish might have died of suffocation due to oxygen depletion when there was a rise in water temperature and in the absence of water current, he said. “Multiple factors such as rise in temperature, low depth of water, low tide and absence of water current resulting in low level of dissolved oxygen might have caused the deaths,” he said. It was a low value fish and fishermen could dry them for poultry feed. Water samples and dead fish were collected for further examination, he said.  (20 Oct. 2019)

Summary As the compilation shows there have been multiple mass fish deaths incidents across the country from Dhanas lake in Chandigarh to Dhanushkodi backwaters in Tamil Nadu. Fish deaths were also reported in Narmada, Sabarmati, Godavari, Indrayani and Pavana rivers due to lack of water and pollution. Similarly the fish diversity is seen facing severe threats in Gomati, Krishna and Cauvery rivers due to riverfront development, increasing pollution, dams depriving the rivers of ecological flows.

The study of College of Fishery Science, Jabalpur revealing the pollution load in the water bodies was causing cancer disease to the fish species is quite shocking. Similarly the Kauno river and Ranchi pond fish death reports show that the chemicals from idols chokes aquatic life to death.

The lakes in Bengaluru, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar and other states filled with pollution load and poisons became graveyard for the fish species. Even the coastal areas are not spared of the growing menace. The repeated fish death in Periyar river in Kerala due to discharge of industrial and domestic effluents which is aggravated by Pathalam regulator could be termed as worst incidents of mass fish kill in the year 2019. The compilation also shows that lack of dissolved oxygen due to increasing pollution loads in waterbodies is commonest reason behind mass fish mortality. Surprisingly, in most of the cases the respective authorities have failed to identify the reasons and take corrective steps.

Compiled by SANDRP (

Also see:- World Fisheries Day 2019: Fish, Fisheries Update from India

World Fisheries Day 2018: India’s Increasing Fish Kill Incidents


World Fisheries Day 2017: Dams, Rivers & Fisheries in India

2 thoughts on “WFD 2019: Mass Fish Kill Incidents Due to Pollution, Dry Rivers In India

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