Fishermen move out as output of fish in MP’s Bargi reservoir falls

The reservoir produced 432 tonnes of fish in 1994-95; it produced only 28 tonnes in 2020-21  

By Anil Ashwani Sharma
Published: Monday 20 December 2021

The continuous decrease in the output of fish in Madhya Pradesh’s Bargi reservoir for the last seven years has created a livelihood crisis for around 2,500 families. More than 30 per cent of fishers have already moved out since November.

The reservoir produced 432 tonnes of fish in 1994-95; in 2020-21, it produced only 28 tonnes.

Munna Burman, president of Bargi Dam Displaced Fisheries Production and Marketing Cooperative Federation, said “10-15 local fishermen have been migrating from every committee since November”.

There 54 cooperative societies of fishers in Bargi dam. Each has 50-55 members.

Raju Kumar Sinha, a member of a fishermen union, said: “Till the time the rights of power of fish production was with the union, the production of fish increased. As soon as the state government intervened and transferred the powers to the contract management parties, the production suffered.”

The fishermen’s committee was trusted with production from 1994-95 to 1998-99; from 2000-2001 to 2020-21, the work was handed over to private players.

Fish seeds were reportedly put in Bargi reservoir from June 15-August 15 every year under the leadership of the unions. No fishing was allowed during the period.

After the fishing rights were transferred to private players, fishing came to be allowed even in the breeding season and fish seeds weren’t supplied regularly. Local fishermen alleged that the contractors illegally fished in the night.

The union has written a letter to the state government in the past and demanded a comprehensive scientific study so that fish production can be increased and the migration of fishermen can be halted.

There are about 2,500 fishermen in the Mandla-Bargi reservoir area. In Mandla district, 27 of 54 primary fishermen cooperative societies have a membership.

Fish farming is carried out in 16,400 hectares in the Bargi reservoir. All 54 primary fishermen cooperatives are fed by the Bargi Fisheries Production and Marketing Cooperative Federation.

The reservoir produced 530 tonnes of fish 1995-96; it produced 460 tonnes in 1996-97; 426 tonnes in 1997-98 and 492 tonnes in 1998-99.

The fishing rights and management stayed with the unions even after the construction of the Bargi dam in 1992.

As people from 54 villages were displaced during the construction of dam, the exact number of cooperative societies was formed later. About 3,000 fishermen were provided membership initially.

Construction of the dam displaced more than 100,000 million from three districts.

Fishing started over here in October 1994, which was carried out for the next seven years. Till 2001, the committees collectively produced 430-530 tonnes of fish every year.

The union increased the rate of fish to Rs 14.50 per kg from Rs 6 per kg. But the production saw a decline after it was handed over to the private players.

Sinha said the private players did not put a fish seed in the reservoir on regular basis. “We demand scientific study to increase the fish production,” he said.

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