KOLKATA, 28 JUNE: Fishermen on the banks of the Hooghly river are finding it more and more difficult to get a decent catch as increasing pollution is killing fish.
Government statistics show that a key pollutant in the river is 1,300 times the permissible limit.
Mr Gopi Das (48) has been in the fishing business near Babughat for decades. He has seen the area develop from an old, shabby riverbank to a spruced up spot.
Mr Das said: “Because of pollution, the fish die in the water. During the Pujas and other festivals the river gets polluted so heavily that when we go for our daily catch we find flowers, plastic bottles and other things but hardly any fish.”
Other fishermen echoed the same. “The authorities take hardly any steps to reduce pollution which affect our business,” said Barun, another fisherman.
The latest West Bengal Pollution Control Board statistics show that in May this year the level of faecal coliform was 650,000 MPN/100ml. An official at the Central Pollution Control Board said it should be less than 500 MPN/100ml.
A CPCB official said it was neither suitable for drinking nor for bathing. It also has some indirect effect on fish breeding and needs to be cleaned, he said.
Pollution is not the only problem these fisherman face. While they don’t have to pay taxes, they don’t get any proper space near the ghats to sell their catch. For that they have to pay an unofficial tax and bribe locals.
“Generally, we sell our catch in local markets but sometimes, due to different reasons, we sell our day’s catch near the ghats. We are not allowed to sit there and if we do, then we need to bribe them,” said one of the fishermen.
Another problem is that many fisherman can’t afford their own boats. Mr Gautam Mullick (35), has been in the business for the past six years at Bagbazaar. During the monsoons he catches only Hilsa fish. On other occasions he catches other types of fish. “We always have a particular area where we take our catch for the day,” Mr Mullick said. Not every day proves lucky for Mr Mullick, though he largely depends on each day’s outcome. “We don’t get a good catch every day; there are days when I have landed up with only one Hilsa fish and sometimes there’s nothing,” he added.
It doesn’t only matter how much a fisherman earns for the day; he additionally has to pay his boat owners a percentage of money. “He will not listen to my problems, he just wants his share of the day,” he said. “It hardly matters to him whether I am able to earn or not. There are not much support we are getting from the government, he added.”