The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lockgates of discord trap wetlands

A less-waterlogged Calcutta or the livelihood of more than 60,000 fishermen and farmers, engaged in cultivation of over 12,000 hectares of the East Calcutta Wetlands, off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass' The choice staring the state administration in the face is making it squirm.

The wastewater of Calcutta, along with the rainwater during heavy showers, is drained out through a ‘combined channel’ into the Kulti river. But the stretch of the wetlands lying between Topsia and Bhushighata, off the Bypass, benefits immensely from the wastewater as it serves as food for fish and manure for vegetables, both vital to the economic activities of the area.

After being processed for pisciculture, nitrogen, phosphorous and other organic matters are separated from the wastewater. Nearly 4,000 hectares of a total of 12,000 are used for pisciculture.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) authorities want the lockgates of the combined channel to be kept open throughout the monsoon. This, however, is a problem for the cultivators, since they lose out on the wastewater.

Under-nourished fish and vegetables could directly affect the market in Calcutta, warns the Fish Producers’ Association, as 14,000 tonnes of fish are produced annually, and around 150 tonnes of vegetables grown every day in this zone. All kinds of freshwater fish, including rui, katla, and mrigel cater to the Calcutta market, and even vegetables like tomato, brinjal, potato and cauliflower are supplied to the city markets.

The Fish Producers’ Association, therefore, wants the lockgates to be kept open only when it’s raining hard.

Mayor-in-council member in charge of drainage and sewerage Mala Roy, said: “One cannot predict when there will be heavy rain and open the gates accordingly. So, the gates have to be kept open throughout the monsoon.”

Sasidulal Ghosh, secretary of Fish Producers’ Association, has brought the producers’ predicament to the notice of state fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda. “The chief secretary will meet officers on Monday, and I will also discuss the matter with the irrigation minister,” Nanda said.

“There was no problem till last year,” Ghosh said. But CMC officials insisted that the gates be kept open since the June 17 showers this year, he alleged. “There is no need to channelise the water into the Kulti, except during heavy showers, as the bheris have the capacity to take in the entire flow out of Calcutta. There should be no problem in keeping the gates open only when the showers are heavy.”

S.K. Palchowdhury, managing director of the State Fisheries Development Corporation, said: “The matter has been taken up at the appropriate level. We hope something can be worked out for the benefit of all.”

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