Catch drowns in turbid waters

Red River changes colour; debate rages over cause; fish and livestock impacted

By Vinod Kumar Singh in Dhemaji
  • Published 7.12.17
A bucket of muddy water of the Brahmaputra collected in Majuli. (Vinod Kumar Singh)
Boats ply on the Brahmaputra in Guwahati. The increased turbidity has slowed down the passage of ferries. Picture by Manash Das

Dhemaji: The Brahmaputra's turbidity is affecting its aquatic life, according to residents of Dhemaji and Majuli districts of Assam.

Jadab Mohan Pait, a fisherman from Kareng village in Dhemaji district of Assam said on Wednesday that his daily catch had reduced to half after the river's water changed colour. "October to February is the fishing season. We get fish in massive quantities but now it has become difficult for us to enter the water. A cemented layer has formed in the river," he said.

A fisherman from Majuli district, Dhiren Gogoi, also spoke of the unusual colour of the river and a sharp fall in the catch. "The spectacle of dolphins playing in the catchment areas of the river has become rare too. Boats get stuck every now and then in the river because of decreasing water level," he said.

The turbid waters of the Brahmaputra, which water resources minister Keshab Mahanta said on Tuesday was because of an earthquake in Tibet, is killing livestock and fish in Dhemaji and Majuli and causing worry to both the administration and local residents.

Chittaranjan Basumatary, advisor to Save Poba Rain Forest, a Dhemaji-based NGO fighting for the forest to be upgraded into a wildlife sanctuary, told The Telegraph that they had noticed concrete-like pieces in the middle of the river in Jonai subdivision, where the Brahmaputra enters Assam from Arunachal Pradesh.

He said abnormal changes had been noticed in the colour and quality of the river's water in Upper Assam districts for the past couple of days. Apart from turbidity, the water level of Assam's lifeline, is receding and livestock on its sandbars have been reported dead after consuming the water in the past few days. The development follows reports of the Siang turning muddy for over a week now.

Dhemaji deputy commissioner R.A. Korati said following complaints from fishermen and people residing on the banks of the river, they had sent samples of the water to Guwahati for testing. "We will send a comprehensive report to the government after the results come," she added.

Majuli deputy commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha said they had asked the public health engineering department to examine the water. "We will submit a report and write to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi if the reports are true," he added.

The contamination of the Brahmaputra poses a threat to the socio-economic and cultural life of the people. Hence, the government should take up the issue at the international level, as the change is because of activities carried out upstream, Basumatary and leaders of several other organisations in Dhemaji and Majuli districts said.