MP: Mahseer fish face an existential threat; the state will launch a conservation campaign starting next month

The existence of the Mahseer fish, popularly known as the freshwater tiger, is under threat following growing impediments to the natural flow of the Narmada River following the construction of various dams on it, a conservation expert said on Sunday.

Upon taking notice, the Madhya Pradesh government has announced that it will launch a campaign from next month to save the endangered Mahseer fish species.

The Narmada River originates at Amarkantak and empties into the Gulf of Khambhat.

Dr. Shriparna Saxena, an aquaculture expert working in coordination with the Forest Department for two decades for Mahseer conservation, told PTI that a survey in 1964 showed there were 25 Mahseer in every 100 fish in Narmada River.

But due to the construction of numerous dams on the Narmada River and its tributaries and human intervention, the number of Mahseer in the Narmada has now decreased to less than 1 percent, she claimed.

“Fishermen living on the banks of the Narmada River say that if they are lucky, they are able to spot a Mahseer once every six months,” she said.

“We had found a five-foot-four-inch long Mahseer weighing 17kg in the river at Khalghat in Dhar district in 2017. We haven’t seen such a big fish so far,” the expert said. .

Officials said major dams built on Narmada in Madhya Pradesh include Bargi, Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar projects, while Sardar Sarovar dam was built on this river in Gujarat.

Other dams have also been built on tributaries of the Narmada, they said.

Asked about Mahseer fish facing an existential crisis following the construction of reservoirs, Kalpana Shrivastava, Principal Secretary of the Fishermen’s Welfare and Fisheries Development Department, said “dams are also needed like Mahseer”. Under the Mukhyamantri Matsya Vikas Yojana, a program to increase the number of Mahseer fish in the state will start next month, she said.

Shrivastava expressed hope that the program will lead to a surge in Mahseer numbers over the next two years.

State Fisheries Federation chief executive Purushottam Dhiman said Mahseer fish seeds would be planted in Denwa, Tawa and other Narmada tributaries as part of the campaign.

“Having Mahseer in Narmada is very important from a biodiversity perspective. As it is a freshwater fish, its presence in the river itself is proof that its water is pure,” he said.

Dhiman said as part of measures to keep Mahseer in the state, fishermen were told that if this fish was caught in their nets, they should release it alive into the water.

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