PARADIP: PANIC gripped locals of Balijhara after thousands of dead fish were found floating in Bata river here in the last two days. Though the exact cause of the mass fish death is yet to be ascertained, the locals including fishermen alleged that some miscreants might have poisoned the river water to settle scores with the successful bidders who have taken up fish cultivation in Bata. A similar incident had taken place in 2016 when thousands of dead fish were found in Bata river. A team of OSPCB had collected water sample and dead fish for tests. It was found that lack of oxygen level in the water had caused mass death of fish. President of Balijhara Yuba Parishad Deepak Swain said after the 2016 incident, Paradip Municipality decided to lease out the river for fish cultivation.
However, no bidders turned up for the project apprehending investment of huge fund towards cleaning the polluted river. “The Parishad took the river on lease from the municipality for fish cultivation and renovated the water body with an investment of `7 lakh,” Swain said. However, a rival bidder filed a petition in the Orissa High Court challenging the lease deed. Later, the High Court issued stay on fish cultivation in Bata river in 2017, Swain said. Despite the stay order of the High Court, the rival bidder illegally started fishing in the river, alleged local fishermen.
“The members of Balijhara Parishad had seized nets of some fish thieves near the river four days back. These miscreants might have poisoned the river causing mass death of fresh water fish including Rohu, Mrigal and Catla,” they alleged. The slum dwellers also alleged that neither the district administration nor Paradip Municipality officials have visited the spot to ascertain the cause of the mass death and clean up fish carcasses from the river. Regional Officer of OSPCB, Paradip Mukesh Mahaling said a team has collected samples from Bata river and sent those for tests to ascertain the cause of fish death. Preliminary investigation suggests that lack of oxygen in water may be the cause of mass death, he added.