Beas · Fish · Fish Sanctuaries

Beas Dolphins: A Flash Of Fin, A Glimmer Of Hope

Above: A female Platanista gangetica minor breaks the surface of the Beas (Photo by Arati Kumar Rao)

India’s few remaining Indus river dolphins are confined to one short, beautiful stretch of the Beas. They have a fighting chance at survival only if we ensure a healthy river

Guest Blog by Arati Kumar Rao

A dark shape cleaves the Beas river, leaving a long wake in its trail. From the way it moves, it is neither a human, nor fish, nor even a river dolphin. The shape swims strongly, shrugging off the strong current. It holds its line and makes straight for a sandbar, hauling itself up on a buff-coloured spit.

A black dog, probably feral. It shakes itself free of water and, running across the sand, begins tugging at the beached carcass of a cow. Another bigger dog appears out of nowhere, and the two begin to snarl and gorge, yanking and tearing flesh off the arcing ribs.

River sandbars contain multitudes. I was upstream of Harike, the largest wetland in north India. The critically endangered gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), the fish-eating, long-snouted crocodilian, of which no more than a few hundred survive in the world, bask and nest on these sandbars. Freshwater turtles like the red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur kachuga) and the Indian narrow-headed soft-shell turtle (Chitra indica), among the most endangered of freshwater species, use sand islands extensively to breed and to bask. Hundreds of thousands of birds — some transient visitors from China and Siberia and Central Asia wintering here, some resident — forage, nest, breed, raise chicks. Many of these creatures have this in common – they are all threatened, to greater or lesser degree.

The sight of predatory, feral dogs in this delicate ecosystem comes with chilling implications. Continue reading “Beas Dolphins: A Flash Of Fin, A Glimmer Of Hope”

Dams · Environmental Flow · Fish Sanctuaries · Free flowing rivers · Ganga · Inland Waterways · Interlinking of RIvers · Karnataka · Kerala

Riverine Fisherfolk as Mascots of flowing rivers and how 4 projects treat them today

When I was documenting a tiny, free-flowing river in Maharashtra Western Ghats named Shastri, the common thread from headwaters to estuary was Fishing! It was everywhere, in all forms, including dozens of fish species and fishing practices, including everyone: men, women, children, otters, crocs, storks. Across the country, buzzing, diversified fisheries with old, complex narratives indicate a rich river. And the palette just gets more vivid, nuanced and colorful with the size of the river.

More than 10 million Indians from some of the most vulnerable groups depend on rivers for their livelihood and nutritional needs. This staggering number can be an underestimate as several riverine fisherfolk do not bring their produce to the market and our livelihood census hardly captures the intricacies of riverine fisheries sector. Despite the huge dependence and critical importance of riverine fisheries, the sector continues being ignored and abused. The reasons behind the exploitation are at the heart of a deeper, more troubling discourse: ownership and appropriation of the river as a natural resource. Continue reading “Riverine Fisherfolk as Mascots of flowing rivers and how 4 projects treat them today”

Fish Sanctuaries

Fish Sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra

Above: Near the fish Sanctuary at Tekpowale, Pune Photo: Sarosh Ali

Introduction .

In India, there has been a rich tradition of communities trying to conserve a part of their ecosystem as a microcosm for the rest. The Western Ghats in particular was home to myriad of such community sanctuaries. These, however, diminished as government policies from the time of the British, and even post-independence, did not realize the importance of community involvement.

There are many community conserved areas (CCAs), some that have existed from ancient times, and some which have emerged in recent times, after having observed some form of degradation, related to local communities are trying to salvage the ecosystem in Western Ghats. While Sacred Groves, or protected patches of forests are relatively well documented, sacred fish sanctuaries which protect the fish as well as rivers, are lesser known. This is an attempt to briefly document a few such sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Continue reading “Fish Sanctuaries in Western Ghats of Maharashtra”

Dams · Fish Sanctuaries

Celebrating India’s Riverine Fisheries on the World Fisheries Day

Above: Women fishing in small pools near (सादिया घाट) Sadiya Ghat on (लोहित) Lohit and Dibang Rivers. Women use several gear, baskets and nets to catch fish from the slush. The activity is accompanied by laughter, chatter and songs. Photo: Author

21st November is celebrated as World Fisheries Day. Since the past few years we have been trying to highlight the significance and richness of India’s riverine fisheries which support over 10 million people by providing livelihoods and nutritional security. Ironically, although India is the world’s biggest inland fish producer, our riverine fisheries are woefully neglected. We do not have a record of riverine fish catch and its trends, people dependent on riverine fishing, species of fish and their population trends, etc. Interventions like dams, water abstraction and pollution have severely affected riverine fisheries, which do not find a place in the dominant water management narrative. Continue reading “Celebrating India’s Riverine Fisheries on the World Fisheries Day”

Fish Sanctuaries · Maharashtra · Western Ghats

White Elephant, Black Fish

How a 15 MW project with 55 mts high dam threatens 5 villages and a fish sanctuary

After an analysis of a particularly nasty dam, I felt like going back to flowing rivers. It is monsoon after all. The plan was to visit Kal River in Western Ghats of Raigad District in Maharashtra to understand how a community in a small village called Walen Kondh is protecting the river and Mahseer fish. Mahseer (Deccan Mahseer, Tor tor) is classified as endangered as per IUCN classification and most wild Deccan Mahseer populations have been wiped out in India. And hence a small, out of the way place, protecting these fish as well as the river voluntarily was like a breeze of fresh air. Continue reading “White Elephant, Black Fish”