A CLOSER LOOK
Nilratan Halder |
October 21, 2022 11:45:55 PM
This delta plain has been home to countless freshwater fish. Hence, rice and fish have been the two most popular food items to define Bangaleeness of Bangalee. But many fish species of the natural water began to disappear due to aggressive cultivation of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of rice, which necessitated withdrawal or regulation of monsoon water throughout the zone and beyond. The range and coverage of monsoon floods has decreased, leaving almost no natural habitat in many areas for the spawning and growth of fish fry in their natural environment.
Also, large amounts of fertilizers and insecticides used for rice and vegetable cultivation are discharged into natural water systems for sedimentation each year. Thus, native fish species began to find it a hostile habitat to survive and reproduce. Many species have either disappeared or are on the verge of extinction. That is why the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) had to intervene to save them from decline and extinction.
Of the 265 freshwater fish species, 140 are small local varieties. In fact, they have a unique taste and nutritional value. Their disappearance means that Bengalis have little or no highly nutritious tasty food on their dining tables. The good news is that BFRI’s tireless research and expertise has so far successfully saved 31 out of 64 small fish species that are endangered through aquaculture. Some fish that disappeared from the fish market have returned thanks to this type of fish farming.
Many of these fish released into natural bodies of water, such as rivers, ponds, meadows and canals, also spawn there, and fish numbers increase in some controlled areas. But this is not the case across the country, especially where natural water bodies are few and far between. This year, during the entire monsoon period, little rain was observed in this country. Areas naturally used for inundation have not been inundated, and the effect on the reproduction of small native fish species has been devastating.
Local fish species, which should be found in both village markets and the fish market of the capital when the water is drawn, are conspicuous by their absence. Fishermen blame their fingerlings for the lack of abundant food supplies in the rainless monsoon.
Of course, fresh water is no longer fresh water. But during the monsoon, at least the abundant water clears it to a large extent. This year, this process has been seriously hampered as the water is more or less like a stagnant pool without a strong current. This is a completely new phenomenon for Bangladesh. It is likely that this is not an isolated incident; it is more about the big problem of global climate change.
The climate has been in turmoil almost all year round. Most parts of the planet have experienced unprecedented weather conditions and their consequences. Many of the world’s famous rivers have lost water, and the sources of several have dried up. Bangladesh did not experience monsoon rains, but there were more rains than expected or normal during the autumn.
A small country, Bangladesh—no country really–can do much about this seasonal behavior. But then some developments in human form can be noticed. It is well known that the country’s water bodies are victims of land robbers. The government even had to set up a National Rivers Protection Commission. The Commission has made some progress in delineating river basins, but much remains to be done. Unfortunately, the commission does not have sufficient power or resources to successfully carry out its mission.
Then there is the need to restore other water bodies that have either completely disappeared or are still announcing their existence. Again, there is a threat to freshwater fish that has yet to be taken very seriously. This comes from two deadly traps called current nets and chinaduari. These, especially the latter — are nets that suck up the smallest aquatic organisms, let alone fry fish. There is a need for a nationwide social campaign against the use of such networks. At the same time, the local administration should start regular actions against those who fish with such nets, which are harmful to the environment. If this type of fishing is not stopped, there will be no native small freshwater fish left to survive.