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An evaluation of natural aquatic resource system: Floodplain Lake (Beels) Fisheries of Assam

Sonmoina Bhuyan*, Dipanjan Kashyap;

Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), 7 Bungalows, Versova, Andheri(W), Mumbai-61.

*Email of correspondence — sonamoina.cife@gmail.com

Introduction:

Assam the popularly known land of river basin is situated in the north-eastern part of India. She is endowed with a large number of unique natural assets which are locally called as beels and popularly known as floodplain lakes. These natural assets are mostly found in floodplains of the river Brahmaputra and Barak basin. According to the Directorate of Fisheries of Assam (1997-98) there are 1,196 floodplain lakes in Assam, of which 430 are registered while the remaining 766 are unregistered. The areas covered by registered and unregistered floodplain lakes are 60,250.24 and 40,603.37 hectares respectively. The production potential of these water bodies are extremely high and therefore it is a source of valuable aquatic flora and fauna and thus utilized for harvesting of commercially important species of fishes, crustaceans, aqua vegetable, fodders and aqua-fruits. They are feeding and breeding ground for fish, amphibians, insects, crustaceans and thousand of migratory birds that visits these beels during winter. The beels have one or more of following attributes:

  1. Support predominantly hydrophytes at least periodically.

  2. Substrate is predominantly hydric soil.

  3. Substrate is non soil, saturated with water or covered with shallow water for sometime during the growing season of typical vegetation.

Potentiality of floodplain lakes fisheries towards the production:

Floodplain lakes are major fishery resources contributing to about 25% of the fish production in Assam. However, major portions have been rendered unproductive due to excessive siltation and growth of weeds and only about 33% of the potential is being utilized for fisheries (assamagribusiness.nic.in assamagribusiness.nic.in). The presence of more than 95 fish species belonging to 51 genera in beels of Assam indicate a huge potentiality in terms of fish production. The resources are composed of rich and varied indigenous stock of carps, snakeheads, catfishes, feather backs, perches, needlefish, loaches, spiny eels, herrings etc. Out of indicated numbers of fish species 16 fish species are purely ornamental, 36 fish species are purely food fish and over 43 species are of food as well as ornamental.


Trend and forecast:

The present level of fisheries production in floodplain lakes fisheries is very low, which is in between (14-488) kg/ha with an average of 173 kg/ha. But the potential yield from the floodplain lake is estimated as (1050-1250) kg/ha by CIFRI. This level of production can be achieved with moderate level of management intervention.


Government policies and regulation in floodplain lake fisheries management:

The leasing policy determines the access and the allocation of the floodplain lakes. It has an important role in this fisheries management as a large portion of floodplain lakes are under the control of state government. According to the policy, fisheries co-operatives are preferred for leasing out the floodplain lakes, which can be leased out to the co-operative societies, is not exceeding 60%. The co-operatives are given the chance to take the bid at a lower rate than a private party. In the absence of co-operatives, lease is preferred members of from fisherman community. A concession of (7.5-10)% is given to the individual lease under the specific condition. The lease period is varies from (3-5) years.


SWOT Analysis of Floodplain lake (Beel) Fisheries:

SWOT is an abbreviated form of Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. SWOT analysis is a good tool for evaluation of any resource system. Here it is performed for f loodplain lakes fisheries -

Strength:

  1. These water bodies are naturally highly productive.

  2. It has varied biodiversity compare to any natural inland water bodies.

  3. Auto stocking of fish species as these water bodies are natural breeding ground.

  4. Apart from fish these are the provider of aqua-flower (water lily, lotus), fodder and aquatic fruits (trapa).

  5. Source of income for a section of people.

  6. Source of irrigational water.


Weakness:

  1. Lack of proper contour structure.

  2. Ineffective technology for capture as well as culture of fish.

  3. Ineffective in preventing and cleaning aquatic macrophytes.

  4. Fishes are more prone to dishes outbreak.

  5. Lack of co-ordination:- Co-ordination is a major stumbling block in effective management of these water resources in the state.

  6. Ineffectiveness of legislation:- Some of the beels are provided protection under the Wildlife Protection Act, which is generally ineffective. This is due to lack of programmatic regulatory regime for an integrated development and management of a drainage basin and involving joint decisions of several sector agencies. Effective coordination between the different ministries (energy, industry, fisheries revenue, agriculture, transport and water resources) is essential for the protection of this ecosystem.

  7. Improvement of beels is difficult task due to high cost of reclamation.

  8. Unclear lows, too many corrupt and confused authorities (numerous govt. departments), plethora of land owning government agencies, political vested interests, and absence of a clear beel environment policy.


Opportunities:

  1. Nutrient full water bodies can be use for culturing high demand fish like major carps, magur, singhi, murrels and other catfishes like singhala etc. by non-conventional cultural techniques like pan culture, cage culture etc.

  2. Beels act as ideal natural habitat for both migratory birds and domestic. The wetlands are also home to hundreds of aquatic animals and reptiles. It might also be a better choice for these wetlands to be systematically converted into wildlife conservation locations, avian parks, bird sanctuaries and recreation centers promoting eco-tourism.

  3. Beels can be utilized for livelihood generation of surrounding people through proper management.

  4. Increase of fish production from existing 173kg/ha to 1250 kg/ha.

  5. Till now only 33% of the resource potentiality in terms of fisheries are utilized, hence two third of resources are yet to be explore.


Threats:

  1. Heavy infestation of aquatic macrophytes and formation of pit in beel areas.

  2. Siltation, sedimentation and pollution from surrounding areas.

  3. Destructive fishing methods i.e.; use of small mess net, toxic material, dewatering etc.

  4. Flowing of pesticides from surrounding agriculture land.

  5. Shrinkage of wetlands due to encroachment by local leader for residential and commercial development.

  6. Dominance of exotic fish species in recent times in beel ecosystem.


Conclusion:

It is well known that beels are very rich in fish faunal diversity. But with the pressure of commercialization most of the beels are converted to commercial fisheries, and nurture only high yielding fish species. It is not favorable for the small indigenous species so proper legislative measures are essential. The so called ‘beauty of beels’ indigenous and migratory aquatic birds are declining due to illegal trapping and killing also a major concern. As most of the beels are gradually degraded due to anthropogenic activities, therefore conservational measure should be adopted to save these important beels upon which a major portion of local people depends for their day to day necessities and also for their livelihood.

References:

  1. assamagribusiness.nic.in assam agribusiness.nic.in

  2. Directorate of Fisheries of Assam (1997-98), assamgovt.nic.in/fisheries.

  3. envisassam.nic.in

  4. Sugunan, V.V. 1995. Floodplain lakes — A fisheries prospective. In Howes, J.R. (ed.) Conservation and sustainable use of floodplain wetlands. Asian wetland Bureau, Kualumpur, AWB Publication No. 113: 67-75.



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