Saturday, December 6, 2008

Illegal dynamite fishing-a grave cause of concern.
A few years ago I remember I sat alongside Assavri, my spouse under a Ficus tree on the banks of the Mhadei at a location frequented by Great Pied hornbills and White browed wagtails amongst other species. The serene settings had prompted us to take a break from our trail into these wilds and observe the mesmerizing beauty of this river and pristine forests. The very sounds of silence could thus be heard and even at twelve o’clock in the afternoon, we were enjoying every bit of the experience.
It was then that this young boy materialized with two others in tow on the other banks of this revered river, and as if to follow a set pattern, did a Reece of the banks and its depth…to decide on a spot to settle down…i.e., sit down and open a parcel. A parcel whose contents were not visible but mind boggling to the untrained eye like mine in these aspects.
A small hand movement, a plonk like sound in the waters near the vantage point where we sat and a shuddering explosion underwater made me sit up with anger and fright. Mindless and more importantly carefree about our presence and oblivious to our identity, the youth jumped into the waters to rummage through their kills, yes this was the illegal dynamite fishing trend that I had so often heard about from various quarters. This sequence of events happened repeatedly thrice over until the youth moved further with their catch…a few fish collected in a small cane basket hung over the shoulder.
Present day scenario. My mind raced back to this thought as I was participating in a seminar on Ecological Traditions of Goa organized jointly by the Biodiversity Cell of the Carmel college for Women and the CPR Environment Education Centre Chennai where Mr. Prakash Paryekar, a true son of the soil and a silent worker working in these parts had made a desperate plea on this issue to the delegates, the official agencies and more importantly to fellow workers, ecologists and nature lovers to put an end to this disastrous and dangerous method of fishing in fresh water lakes and rivers, especially in the hinterlands of Goa as besides the fact that it is replacing the ecological and traditional methods of fishing, it is an illegal act of killing indiscriminately and callously as Mr. Paryekar put it.
So far very little has happened and perhaps the plea has once again been forgotten. I for one admit that it was not a priority for me until I saw the catastrophic effects that this trend does to the immediate ecology where it is practiced. Not only is the river bed, the multitudes of organisms and the various other components lost and dismembered, but so is the surrounding vegetation. In fact many of the dead fish are not even collected due to the unclear waters that prevail for sometime and also because many species are small or unworthy for the table! Scars run deep in the earth cuttings and large fauna too are adversely affected. And that too for the sake of a handful of fish that some individuals need to nab, in short while by using short cuts that cause maximum negative impact by using minimum effort. Traditional methods are hence forsaken as they are deemed to be time consuming and strenuous, a result of which many a local are now taking to the use of dynamiting as it is called in all of Goa’s hinterlands.
I sometimes wonder from where the dynamite is procured as it is a cause of serious concern too, and given the recent spate of terror attacks on the country one wonders whether such channels of freely available dynamite need to be clamped upon as an immediate measure. There are rumors that the metal and stone quarries that operate provide the same for an amount and although this cannot be ruled out, it is not my job to investigate or even comment on this aspect. It is but necessary that official agencies including the Goa Police and the Goa Forest Department look into the issue as they are responsible for protection of life and property respectively. That the dynamiting in rivers happens in areas that are part of government forests and include Reserve Forests and even some parts of our sanctuaries is a fact that cannot be ignored.
Isn’t there a system that can secure our water bodies from the mindless onslaught from misguided youth and locals? Aren’t there social groups and NGO’s who can take up this cause? I wonder why not, as the practice is not only illegal and harmful to the environment but dangerous for those who practice it too. There have been unconfirmed and unproven reports of accidents that have happened whilst handling these explosives and there have been times when unexploded sticks of dynamite have detonated unexpectedly causing injury life and property including cattle. This has to stop, and the sooner our Government reacts the better, before it is too late and an accident occurs. Individuals have often raised their voices over the years chiefly amongst them being Rajendra Kerkar and Prakash Paryekar, but these have been brushed aside for reasons that I still cannot comprehend even today.
Our Rivers and its denizens are life support systems for all Goans, be it the fish that inhabit its streams and waters or the hill forests these waters support. That our ancestors have elaborately created rituals and practices to venerate the River is proof enough that the river ecology was considered as an important support system for sustaining life of all kinds. That we ruin and destroy this very support system for a handful of by catch in a manner that destroys an entire riverine ecology is not only illegal but unethical too. Keep the faith.

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