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Dead fish float in Teesta, suspicion of pesticide use

Jalpaiguri, Dec. 18: Hundreds of dead fish were found floating in the Teesta this morning, sparking a rush to catch them before experts warned that pesticides may have been sprinkled in the water, rendering the fish unsafe for consumption.

On November 28 last year, Jalpaiguri had woken up to the news of several varieties of fish floating dead in the Karala that flows through the town. The mass deaths in the Karala was attributed to the contamination of water with the use of a cocktail of six pesticides, mainly endosulfan and methyl parathion, both used in cultivation of paddy.

Around 6.30am today, people along the banks of the Teesta spotted the fish floating dead on the surface. The spot is a stone’s throw from the district magistrate’s office and close to Jubilee Park.

Sujit Mondol, a resident of Saradapalli, adjacent to Jubilee Park, said he saw three-four persons taking away the dead fish in large containers. “They were not locals. When I asked them what they were doing, they replied that they had heard about the fish floating in the river and they were collecting them. Soon, more people, including children, came and started collecting the fish,” Mondol said.

The dead fish sprang up along a stretch of about 500m downstream the river from Jubilee Park. With the departure of the monsoon, the river is turgid in town.

The civic body and the fisheries department have filed separate complaints with Kotwali police, alleging that the fish had died because unknown persons had contaminated the river with poison.

The incident made the disaster management wing of the Jalpaiguri municipality warn residents over loudspeakers not to buy fish caught from the Teesta. The Congress councillor of ward 3, Swarup Mondal, who is in charge of the disaster management wing, reached the riverbank around 10.30am.

“We have made announcements over loudspeakers and are keeping a watch on the local markets. We have also sent word to Mainaguri, 19km away, where similar announcements are being made as fish caught here are sold in markets there,” said Mondal.

Officials of the fisheries department also reached the spot and collected samples of water and the dead fish. They said it seemed that the fish had once again died because the water had been poisoned by pesticides. They said nearly 40 species of fish, including arh, boroli, tangra, bayim, punti, pholi, sar punti and boal had died in the Teesta.

The executive officer of the district fisheries department, Subhasis Chakrabarty, said samples of the fish and the water would be sent to their laboratory in Calcutta for tests.

“Catfish species like tangra and boal are hardy and their death indicates that a strong dose of pesticides killed the fish. We have already despatched the samples to Calcutta and we will soon get to know the nature of the poison,” said Chakrabarty.

Subdivisional officer (headquarters), Sagar Chakrabarty said both the municipality and the adjacent Kharia gram panchayat had been asked not to allow fishing in the river for the time being.