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Dead fish found in Salt Lake
By Suman Chakraborti, Times of India, 8th November 2011

KOLKATA: Dead fish found floating in waterbodies in Salt Lake and Sector V has alarmed city environmentalists. Recently, Peoples' Green Society, a green NGO, noticed several fish dying on the small waterbodies off Sector V. A few other NGOs also noticed it.

Pollution of waterbodies with even hazardous waste thrown in them is the key factor behind this alarming phenomenon. Tonnes of waste generated by Sector V's umpteen roadside food stalls is dumped into these waterbodies. There is a large bheri beside SDF building near which several roadside eateries operate. Plastic and paper waste lie scattered over the entire ground just beside the bheri, polluting its water.

Local fishermen said the number of fish has declined over the years. "Fish die in quite large numbers when filthy water from the city enters these waterbodies through canals," said Nitai Mandal, a local fisherman.

Quite a few green NGOs have spotted filth in the bheris. "We recently conducted a survey at the spot and found several fish dying due to increased pollution. This is quite alarming," said Shyamal Ghosh, secretary of Peoples'Green Society, one such green NGO.

South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE), a green NGO active in areas surrounding Sector V for a decade, has also noticed dead fish in the bheris. "We have also noticed fish dying in the ponds there. This could be due to two reasons. One, some kind of contamination could be taking place near Khasmahal and Chainabhi opposite Chakher bheri where rotten animal skin is being used as fish food. The rotten skin that generates a stink could contaminate the water," said Dipayan De, SAFE chairperson. He said the other reason could be filthy sewerage water draining into the ponds. "The distribution pattern of filthy water is yet to be fixed. This could be the other reason," he said.

"This is something that has been going on for quite some time, but unless a proper study is conducted, the specific reason cannot be found. Waste water from the city is highly contaminated with toxic elements, making it unfit for pisciculture," said environment activist Subhas Dutta.

The bheries are part of the 12,500-hectare-wide East Kolkata Wetlands. It has been noticed earlier that untreated discharge from nearby industrial units like Topsia, Tiljala and the Calcutta leather complex has polluted the bheri water. The West Bengal Pollution Control Board authorities have also received complaints of improper disposal of solid waste from small factories, thus polluting water bodies in the area. The issue of effluents discharged by factories into water bodies needs to be tackled as a priority as it creates severe pollution, officials said.

State fisheries minister Abu Hena said that he has not received any report about fish dying in the waterbodies due to increasing pollution. "We do have plans to develop pisciculture in the wetlands. However, I have not received any information of fish dying due to pollution. I will definitely look into the matter," he said.

According to estimates, about 10,000 tonnes of fish is produced annually in the entire wetlands area. Recent studies have shown that over half of the 36 fish varieties identified in the wetland area have become rare over the past few decades. Of the rest, more than 50% are found only sporadically in some of the bheris.