Brackish water from prawn bheris seeps into farmland, destroys crops
Kolkata: A large stretch of land in East Midnapore district is steadily getting converted into saline ponds because of the uncontrolled and intensive aquaculture that has increased salt concentration in local water bodies damaging the cultivation of paddy and other food grains.
The area is used for rampant production of tiger prawns and vannamei shrimp using traditional methods of farming which fetches dollars from the international market. The money earned from foreign market helps to cover the production cost.
Fishermen organisations in the district have alleged that aquaculture was being done illegally by a section of people on the acres of land throughout the district. They pointed out that the paddy production has dwindled because of the salinity of water and the intensive aquaculture is taking a heavy toll on the environment and contributing marine pollution.
As salty water from various rivers that are close to the Bay of Bengal is being channeled to the bheris through canals, it is affecting crops. The water in rivers close to the coast is brackish because sea water enters during high tide. As the salty water seeps into cultivable land, it affects paddy.
Several farmers from the district had earlier spoken about a significant drop in paddy production, with several "illegal" ponds or bheris mushrooming in the area in the past five years. In the past few years, it was alleged that many plots of land close to sea have been dotted with saline water bodies. Interestingly, shrimp farms have gone up in the district in the past few years.
'Purba Medinipur Matsyajibi Forum', has written to the Chairman of the state pollution control board urging him to carry out a detailed study and take adequate steps to check rampant aquaculture in the district.
The letter sent by the president of the forum, Debasish Shyamal, says ground water is used for cultivation of tiger prawns and vannamei shrimp and saline water is stored in the fish ponds. The pond water is treated with many medicines and harmful materials which finally reaches the sea through canals. These toxic materials are affecting the marine creatures.
The fishermen's organisation urged the Pollution Control Board Chairman to examine the quality of water in the ponds where prawns are being cultivated and the adjoining areas.
"We have urged the pollution control board to publish a report on the damage saline water is causing to the farmland. They should publish a report after conducting a probe," Shyamal said.