June 30, 2021
Inclusion, integration, innovation and improvisation in cage fish production can ensure sustainability and support the livelihoods of marginalised riverine communities, particularly women as discussed by experts at a webinar organised by CUTS International.
India and Bangladesh can collaborate in research, share the success stories, policies and practices in cage fish farming followed in each country, said Veena Vidyadharan, Fellow, CUTS International. “We need to have inclusive polices to protect the rights of fisher folks who depend on common property resources for livelihoods”, she added.
Ms Vidyadharan was moderating a virtual dialogue on cage fish farming culture in India and Bangladesh organised by CUTS International. This virtual dialogue organised on 30th June 2021 was attended by around 50 high-profile dignitaries and stakeholders from India and Bangladesh.
The webinar was an initiative as a part of a regional programme titled “Trans-boundary Rivers of South Asia” (TROSA), which is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), managed by Oxfam Novib and implemented by CUTS International.
In his opening remarks, Jyotiraj Patra, Project Manager, TROSA, Oxfam said that inclusiveness of policies and programmes, integration of local communities and women in the decision making process and innovation in financing, technology and market opportunities are essential for sustainable development.
CUTS team presented the findings of a study on cage fish farming and highlighted that cage fish farming projects in the state of Assam are being implemented by the Directorate of Fisheries, Government of Assam under the Chief Minister’s Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana (CMSGUY). Under the scheme, the state government provides a 70 per cent subsidy.
The study also highlighted that in the case of cage fish production the wastage of fish food is minimum and the feed is utilised only by the targeted variety of fish, which is being cultivated. Currently, Pangash, Kawai, Rohu, Katla, Java Chitol and Puti fishes are being cultivated under these projects.
Mohammed Mukeruzzaman, Senior Specialist, Centre for Environment & Geographic Information Service said that cage fish culture is getting increasingly popular in Bangladesh in recent years. At present that there are more than 10,000 cages in various rivers mainly in Dakotia and Meghna river systems. Since rivers in Bangladesh are also used for navigational purposes, there are instances of conflict.
A comprehensive policy enlisting guidelines for all the stakeholders dependent on river systems is required. “The government of Bangladesh has come with a draft policy which will be finalised soon”, he said.
Chandan Chettri, State Nodal Officer, Directorate of Fisheries, Government of Assam explained various initiatives undertaken by the department of fisheries in Assam. On a pilot basis, the state is promoting cage fish farming in ‘beels’, wetlands and ponds. “The practice of cage fish farming in the river Brahmaputra is challenging because of heavy siltation”, he opined.
Supratim Chowdhury, Associate Professor, West Bengal University of Animal and Fisheries Sciences said cage fish farming provides a rich area for improvisation and exploration. “Considering the floods, cyclones and the ban period for fishing, we need to adopt innovative concepts, for instance linking cage fish farming with tourism or organic fish production. This will also provide alternate livelihood opportunities for local youth and women, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Joydeep Gupta, South Asia Director, the Third Pole said that subsidies have driven unbalanced production of fish and excessive use of chemicals and medicines that can lead to serious hazards to public health and the environment. He recommended organic fish culture and sustainable techniques for healthy water bodies.
Shanta Soheli Moyna, Project Officer, Natural Resources Studies, TROSA, said that the rights of local people must be protected first before initiating new projects in the river. She further mentioned the negative ecological effects of cage fish farming in the rivers and argued for favourable policies and their implementation to secure the rights of local fisherfolks in using common property resources.
In his concluding remarks, Avinash Singh, Programme Quality and Learning Specialist- TROSA highlighted the need for having safeguards in policies and practices to protect the ecosystem and the livelihoods of the marginalised communities dependent on the river.
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