Skip to main content

Proposed Bharbhut barrage across Narmada mouth has made fishermen uneasy, admits state-sponsored study

Narmada river at merging into sea
Counterview Desk
In a major admission, a state-sponsored study, “Environmental Impact and Risk Assessment for the Proposed Barrage Across River Narmada near Bhadbhut, Dist. Bharuch”, by top consultants National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), has said that “in the event of construction of the barrage and the creation of the fresh water reservoir at the barrage, the concern of the fishermen regarding deprivation of the presently available fishing advantage is quite genuine that deserves very careful consideration for policy-level action.”
The study is the main focus of attention at the environment public hearing, to take place on July 19 for the Rs 4,000 crore project barrage across Narmada river’s mouth at Bharbhut. Pointing towards the concern of fishing community residing next to the proposed barrage, the study says, “The total number of fishermen’s families residing in 21 villages is 2,520 with a population of 12,638. On an average, a family comprises of five fishermen, having 2-3 active fishermen. Thus, out of the total fishermen population of 12,638, about 50% is actively engaged in the fishery activities.”
Pointing out that “Narmada estuary traverses through the bounds of Bharuch district“, the study say, “The estuary, which is about 1.6 km wide at the barrage site downstream of village Bhadbhut, gets widened at the Gulf mouth. It covers an area of about 25,000 to 30,000 ha. This estuary is reckoned as the largest estuary in the State of Gujarat.” The concern is particularly serious as these fishermen live here in poor conditions. Every other adult members of the family is unemployed.
"Fishermen are inadequately equipped with fishing infrastructures like mechanized/ non-mechanized boats. Since each family owns several nets, it indicates that the fishing activities are mostly localized along the frontal stretch of the estuary nearby the habitation of the fishermen", the study says, adding, “It also implies that the boat bound movement of the fishermen is limited to a small number of fishermen having access to mechanized boats. Fishing practices are mostly conventional type. Regardless of the boat-based/ non boat-based activities, fish catching is essentially done by means of nets.”
Even then, “while fish production in Gujarat comprises inland fish and marine fish, of which the former is the minor constituent, contrasted to it in Bharuch district, the inland fish production is the major constituent accounting for 27.80% of the total inland fish production in the state, while marine fish production is a minor constituent and accounts for only 0.94% of the total marine fish production in the state".
Among the major catches, the study says, Hilsa fish has been the major constituent. In early 2000s, it accounted for 87% of the total estuary catch, how its share has declined to about 43% of  the total estuarine fish catch. The other species supporting the estuarine fisheries are Grey Mullet (Mugil parsia, M. cunnesius, M. tade, Mugil Sp.), Catfish (Anus Sp.), Bombay Duck (Harpodon nehereus), Scampi (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), Penaeid / Non Penaeid Prawn (Metapenaeus Sp., Acetus Sp.), Cock-Up (Lates calcarifer), Kalbasu (Labeo calbasu), etc.
The study quotes fishermen as saying that once the barrage at Bharbhut is built, there will be a further reduction of flow of riverine water into the downstream estuary which may cause variation in salinity of the estuary water, affecting the upstream migration of the Hilsa fish. In their view, the barrage would be a barrier to the movement of fishermen and also to the migration of Hilsa and other fishery species across the barrage. The traditional fishermen are mostly dependent on the Hilsa fishery which is showing a consistent declining trend. However, as the price of the Hilsa fish has increased quite substantially, they have been so far surviving.
The fishermen also feel, says the study, that after the barrage is constructed, the breeding ground of Hilsa fish will disappear. In the context of the new barrage construction, they should be treated as the “Project Affected Persons”, they said, and need to be compensated suitably. This is particularly necessary because “unlike agricultural farmers having permanent asset of land on which they have legal right, the fishermen do not have any exclusive legal right for fishing in any part of the estuary or the sea. This encourages outsiders to encroach in their fishing area and thereby deprive them of their livelihood”. With the construction of the barrage, “they may lose forever whatever fishing advantage that they presently obtain.”
The fishermen also complain that “they are deprived of many government support schemes like the Sagar Khedut Yojana, which is operative in other talukas of Bharuch District." They may, however, be happy to carry out agriculture, if they are provided a piece of land, as compensation. Even as saying some of the fishermen’s concerns are genuine while others are not, the study admits, “Presently, the fishermen residing along the Narmada tail stretch carry out their fishery activities across the three habitats without any interruption. Moreover, the marine Hilsa fish species, thriving in saline water environment of Arabian sea, requires freshwater environment for breeding purposes. Similarly, the freshwater prawn, thriving in freshwater environment, requires brackish water environment for breeding purposes."
The study says, "These fishery species do not face any obstruction to their inter-habitat migratory path. After construction of barrage, inter-habitat movement of the fishermen as also of the fishery species (Hilsa fish and fresh water prawn) will be obstructed.” This may happen because a "river’s estuary, where freshwater meets the sea, is a particularly rich ecosystem. Many fish catch comes from these habitats, which depend on the volume and timing of nutrients and freshwater." 
The study underlines, “The riverine nutrients exist in water flow and sediments, carried and transported by flow and sediments; increase the nutrient level in estuaries and the adjacent sea. The decrease and alteration of the flows and nutrients reaching estuaries have marked effects on coastal and marine ecosystem and biodiversity, such as the nursery ground of fishes in estuaries and marine fish catch. The alteration of the flows reaching estuaries because of barrage is a major cause of the precipitous decline of sea fisheries in many estuaries of the world. Decreased discharge rates can result in an increase in salinity in estuaries and change the composition of species in this zone.”

Comments

TRENDING

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

Poser to Modi: Why is Gujarat not fulfilling Constitutional obligations to minorities?

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on infringing upon MCC activists’ constitutional right to protest. Nafees says, they had no other demands except that the Gujarat government should move towards fulfilling the constitutional obligations towards minorities and international treaties to which India is a signatory.

World Bank needs a new perspective on development, not just a new president

By Maju Varghese*
The resignation of the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim was an unexpected development given the fact that he had three more years to complete his tenure. Resignations at such a high level after bidding for a second term is unusual which prompts people to think what would have led to the act itself.