Udaipur— A man-made crisis in the famous Jaisamand lake in the Udaipur district, is affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen in the surrounding villages. The source of the crisis is Tilapia, an invasive fish species, which is eating away the native fishes. Jaisamand harboured only a negligible quantity of Tilapia, but in two decades, its proportion has escalated about 60 percent of total fish species in the lake. Native fishes like Rohu, Katla, Mrigal, Laachi, Singhada, Murmola etc are rapidly declining in numbers with the increasing population of Tilapia.
The fishermen have been relying on the lake for generations and the Tilapia invasion is putting their traditional way of life in jeopardy. These villagers are from Mathudi, Patan, Chiboda, Panikotda, Hirawat, Toranmahudi, Ghati, Siyarkotda, Bodla, Makadseema, Deodatalab, Payari etc.
Fish producer cooperative societies are formed in 22 villages adjacent to Jaisamand Lake, and about 2500 fishermen families are associated with them, whose total population is around 15 thousand. These fish producer cooperatives were earlier managed by the Rajas Sangh and were benefited from various government schemes. Later they were put under the Directorate of Fisheries, after which the condition of these fishermen worsened due to departmental neglect and corruption.
"The community is facing several problems in the region. The directorate arbitrarily introduced seeds of selected species from other remote states in the lake, due to which the fish diversity of the lake got destroyed. Encroachments are being made on the islands inside and around Jaisamand Lake by the land mafia and influential people, the natural form and ecosystem of the lake are being badly damaged" Viren Lobo, Managing Trustee of the Institute of Ecology and Livelihood Action told The Mooknayak. The organization had recently held a dialogue with the fishermen and came to know about their issues. A report is being compiled which would be sent to the state and central government agencies for needed actions and solutions. Entangled in the cobwebs of the government system, these tribal fishermen are not given adequate subsistence allowance during the close season (when fishing is closed during the monsoon period) through the 'Savings cum Relief' scheme, as a result these poor fishermen are living in poverty. It was known that most of the families are being denied subsistence allowance by dividing them into categories below and above the poverty line.
Dr. Sunil Dubey an Ecological Scientist and member of the IUCN World Commission, a subsidiary unit of the United Nations, told The Mooknayak that by putting foreign invasive species 'Tilapia fish' in Jaisamand lake, the government department has not only sowed the seed of destruction of the local fish species of Jaisamand lake, but also the livelihood of the local tribal fishermen communities laying the foundation for increasing crisis day by day. "Today, the existence of Jaisamand Lake, one of the biggest and important artificial lakes not only in India but also in the world, is facing a severe crisis due to human activities. The local tribal fishermen are the real custodians of this lake and Maharana Jaisingh had also built this lake for his tribal people, but today the fish diversity of the lake and the livelihood of the fishermen are in dire straits due to the poor system of the Directorate of Fisheries" Dubey speaks in a desperate voice.
When The Mooknayak spoke to some fishermen on their problems, they narrated several issues that have been troubling them for years.
Govind Meena, administrator of local fisherman and fish producer cooperative society Minduda, explained to The Mooknayak, the need to preserve the ecological functions and ecosystem services of Jaisamand lake in its pristine natural form and demanded that destructive tourism in the fish habitat and breeding areas of the lake, pollution, construction, commercial activities should be stopped.
"Instead of importing fish seed from other states, the department should produce fish seed at the local level and with mutual consent in the lake. Arrangements should be made to put fish seeds that are cultured by our people in tanks near the lake shores, a proper training should be given to our people for capacity building" says RatanLal Bhil of Patan village.
Homaram from Chiboda village says "The way the government is giving rights to the forest dwellers who depend on forests, similarly, the tribal fishermen, who are dependent on fisheries resources for their livelihood and livelihood, should also be given rights for conservation, promotion and management of their water bodies and fisheries resources and cooperation should be provided by improving the government system".
Among the committee members, Nathulal, Shankarlal, Motaram, and Devilal also demand from the government that marketplaces should be provided in Udaipur city and nearby towns for open sale of fish, For the training of fish processing and sale of fish products, capacity enhancement and financial support should be given to the fishermen women and youth, the fishermen should also be given loans by the bank for fish production and banks should stop asking for unnecessary guarantees.
The tilapia belongs to the Cichlidae family and lives in warm freshwater. There are around a hundred species, some of which adapt very well to living in the sea. Originally from Africa, it was acclimatised in Asia, America and Europe during thesecond half of the 20th century. Tilapia survives in water with very low oxygen level and its eggs retain life even in dry conditions. It has destroyed the habitat of native species which are already decimated by pollution.
A report from The National Fisheries Development Board, says, a high population of the species has affected the fisheries in several reservoirs and lakes as in Vaigai, Krishnagiri, Amaravati, Bhavanisagar, Tirumoorthy, Uppar and Pambar reservoirs in Tamil Nadu, Walayar, Malampuzha, Pothundy, Meenkara, Chulliar and Peechi reservoirs of Kerala, Kabini reservoir of Karnataka along with Jaisamand lake in Rajasthan.
Introduction of Oreochromis mossambicus in Jaisamand lake not only resulted in reduction of average weight of major carp, but also posed a threat to mahseers (Tor tor and T. putitora), which are on the verge of extinction, says the Board report.
Support the Janwadi journalism of The Mooknayak, which prominently raises the issues and problems of the exploited/deprived, Dalit, tribal, women and minorities. The Mooknayak is run by your support. Click here for Support.