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Fishermen to look out for polluters
Committee planned for Karala protection

Jalpaiguri, Nov. 30: Fishermen have woken up to the unpalatable truth that illegal methods by a section of them for a bigger catch is posing a threat to the existence of fish in the Karala river.

They today offered to clean up the Karala and join a committee that will be tasked to save the river from polluters.

Thousands of fish had floated up dead on the river in Jalpaiguri on Monday morning because of toxic water.

Today, members of the Jalpaiguri Sadar Block Fishermen’s Co-operative Society met the additional director of the department, Sonam Chewang. They admitted that an unscrupulous section of the fishermen was using poison or exploding gelatine sticks to kill fish in the rivers, canals and creeks in the district.

“If this goes on, fish species will definitely disappear from rivers like the Karala. The fishermen registered under the government are suffering as the quantity of the catch is going down,” said Lakhshmikanta Das, the secretary of the society.

He said the society would clean up the Karala free of cost. “We have told the municipal authorities as well as the health department that we will clean up the river. We also pledged that we will be on the lookout for errant fishermen and alert the fisheries departments so that action can be taken against them.”

Silt, rubbish like plastic and medical waste have accumulated in the Karala over years. The clean-up will give fresh breath to the river.

Chewang said a proposal had been sent to the district magistrate to form Karala Bachao Committee (Save the Karala Committee) consisting of fishermen and officials of the fisheries department.

“The main task of the committee is to keep the Karala clean and to monitor whether illegal methods are being used to catch the fish. Similar committees will be constituted later to protect other rivers in the district,” he said.

The Jalpaiguri municipal workers today scooped up more dead fish from the Karala. “Around 150 kilos of dead fish, mostly of the small size, were removed from the river. We have collected 322kg of dead fish so far. Yesterday, we dug pits in the municipal rubbish dump and buried about 150kg fish. Alum and lime were dropped in the river today to kill harmful germs,” said Pinaki Sengupta, the vice-chairperson of the civic body.

A team from the North Bengal University’s fisheries and zoology departments have claimed that large quantities of Thiodan — a pesticide based on endosulfan — dumped in the Karala caused the death of the fish.

“As I dissected a fish, I got the unmistakable odour of Thiodan. We have toured the area and it seems that at least 15 to 20 litres of Thiodan were dumped at different spots along the river,” said Sudip Barat, the head of the zoology department.

The West Bengal Pollution Control Board hasn’t yet given results of the test. The board chairperson, B.K. Dutta, is scheduled to arrive here tomorrow with the results .

Barat said the authorities should warn people against bathing in the river and washing utensils.

“Those who take bath in the river might get skin rashes,” said Barat.