Mayor Subrata Mukherjee will demand payment from the state fisheries department for the city’s waste water drained into the East Calcutta Wetlands and used in bheris as piscine fodder.
The city’s waste water, along with the rainwater after heavy showers, is drained out through a “combined channel” into the Kulti river. But the stretch of wetlands between Topsia and Bhushighata, off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and used for fish and vegetable cultivation, benefits from the waste water throughout the year.
It serves as food for fish and manure for the vegetables grown there. “The state fisheries department channelises the water to the bheris as a natural nutrient and varieties of rui, katla, mrigel and tilapia, worth Rs 10 lakh, are sold daily, but the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) does not get any revenue from this,” pointed out Mukherjee.
The waste water, after being processed through pisciculture, serves as a nutrient for fish and vegetables. However, the CMC authorities want the lockgates of the combined channel to be kept open throughout the monsoon, or else, they argue, this will keep the city waterlogged for hours. This, however, poses a problem for the cultivators, for the fish and vegetables are then deprived of nourishment.
“I will not allow the city to remain flooded to serve the interests of the bheri-owners,” stressed Mukherjee. However, director of fisheries Sanjay Thade countered: “We are concerned about preserving pisciculture and the sewer channels from which we draw water for the bheris belong to the state irrigation department. Is he trying to make pisciculture non-viable by imposing a charge on the use of sewer water, so that bheri-owners are forced to sell their bheris to realtors'”
A member of the Chobbish Parganas Fish Producers’ Association stressed that the city, too, benefited from the vast stretch of wetlands, as cool breezes wafted from there.
Association members argued that direct discharge of sewer water into the river was not permissible, and by drawing drain water for pisciculture, the fisheries department had been helping the civic authorities treat the sewer water naturally. The CMC also benefits from pisciculture for, otherwise, the civic body would have had to invest a large sum of money to set up a plant to treat the sewer water before discharging it into the river.
Mayor Mukherjee said since the sewer water was the CMC’s property and the bheri-owners were using it for commercial purposes, they must cough up service charge to the CMC.
But the bheri-owners could not agree less. “We pay the irrigation department for the water,” said some bheri-owners of Topsia. Hence, they reasoned, Mukherjee should take up the matter with the state irrigation department, claiming his share from them.
The state irrigation and fisheries departments, including the respective ministers, Kiranmoy Nanda and Amalendralal Roy, will meet on Tuesday to clear the deadlock, along with CMC authorities.