TIRUCHY: After almost five years of being jobless, a community of 25 registered fishers in the Ponaniyar dam area now senses an opportunity. The Fisheries department is planning to release fish seeds into the dam. This would promote fishing, using the increased amount of water stored in the dam. However, fishermen feel the amount of uncleared silt in the dam storage area may hinder fish breeding.
Ponaniyar dam was built in 1975 to store water from the Ponaniyar river to irrigate several thousand acres of farmlands and also for breeding fish. Rainfall in the Kadavur mountain region is the main water source for the dam. As the area received poor rainfall, the dam storage limits have not reached anywhere near the shutter heights of 40 feet. As the dam on average contained 30 feet of water, the Fisheries department, to provide job opportunities to people close to the area, started breeding fish for commercial sales till 2013. However, as water levels dropped below 20 feet, fisheries operations were halted from 2014, leaving local fishers jobless. As a result, most fisheries facilities close to the dam area and equipment have not been maintained for these years. Locals are now urging the department to restore the fisheries buildings and storage facility and are also seeking aid to purchase equipment.
Speaking to TNIE, Shunmugam, a Fisheries department official, said, “Following recent rainfall, water storage levels have risen to 28 feet after a long time. This allowed us to decide to restart commercial fish breeding works. Tenders have been floated for procuring 12 lakh fish seeds of katla, rohu, mrigal, common carp and grass carp. The department would be introducing about one lakh katla seeds in the Ponaniyar dam area later this month. The rest of the seeds are to be introduced at various spots in Tiruchy and Pudukkottai districts. After some time, fishers would be allowed to catch the fish to sell. Though there is scope for introducing more fish seeds, the uncleared silt is a hurdle.”
He added that at first, there were only six registered fishers permitted to enter the dam to catch fish. In later years, their numbers increased to 25 fishers till 2013. It is expected now more new fishers would get licences to fish in the dam area.
The official stated that though there is a proposal for farmers to enroll for fish breeding using farm ponds, only a handful of farmers has shown interest as the area is still facing a water crisis. Shunmugam expected that if the monsoon intensifies, more farmers may come forward to be registered for farm pond fish breeding.
AS Nagarajan, a fisher from Vaiyampatti, said, “Earlier, we used to catch fish in the dam and sell them to earn a living, but for the past couple of years, as the water levels went down drastically, the fish population also dropped to a critical level. Fishing works were stopped at the dam, leaving us jobless.