Dhaka, Bangladesh
Double blow to haor farmers

Double blow to haor farmers

Toxic gas kills fish

It was a double blow to thousands of farmers living around the vast 'haors' (wetlands) in Sunamganj. They watched in agony a large number of dead fishes floating, even before they could recover from the loss of boro crops after flash floods submerged rice fields almost ready for harvest. For some others, it was time to make money by netting the floating fishes, reports bdnews24.com. Flooded crops rotting in various haors in Moulvibazar are releasing toxic gas that decimates local fish. The Fisheries Department is trying to combat the problem by spreading lime and dolomite, but have not been able to say how many fish have been killed. Almost 10,000 hectares of crops are rotting in three haors, district fisheries official AKM Shafiquzzaman told bdnews24.com. "The rotting paddy is releasing ammonia and hydrogen sulphide gas into the water, killing many different types of fish," he said. Six tonnes of lime and dolomite have been spread to curb the problem, he said. Fish spawn will also be introduced to replenish local stocks. Juri Upazila fisheries official Md Abdus Sakur says fishing has also been barred in the area for three to four days in an effort to maintain stocks. Hakaluki is known as Moulvibazar's fish trove. Nearly 13,000 tonnes of fish are caught there each year, Sakur said. Heavy rains are likely in the next three to four days, according to the Meteorological Department, said District Agricultural Official Md Shahjahan. This may cause further damage to crops. Fisheries officials said fish in the 'haors' is like second cash crop to the farmers, after the single boro rice they grow in the wetlands. The fishes died as the submerged rotting paddy created ammonia gas, which replaced the dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water. Too much use of fertiliser and pesticides in the rice fields was another cause of such a massive number of fish deaths, some of the witnesses said. The officials said dead fishes were seen in Sunamganj Sadar, Jagannathpur, South Sunamganj and Dharmapasha upazilas, all of which provide not only a huge supply of boro rice, but also fish to the local markets and districts around. Farmers said all the 'haors' of Nalua, Maiya, Pingla in Jagannathpur upazila saw dead fishes stuck along the shores since Saturday. The rice fields went under water at these places 22 days ago following rain and water cascading down the hills across the border.Mostafa Mia, fisheries official of Sadar upazila, said the fishes died due to ammonia gas released by the rotting paddy under water. "We are providing an antedote so that more fishes do not die," he added. The district fisheries officer, Shankar Ranjan Das, said it was all due to the deluge which submerged the paddy. Sukhair Rajapur South Union chairman Amanur Raja Choudhury, said fish deaths were widespread in Dharmapasha upazila. After having lost their paddy, it was more bad news for the farmers, he added. Resident physician of the Sunamganj Sadar Hospital, Dr Rafiqul Islam, has advised people against using the water of the 'haor', polluted by the poison from the rotten paddy as well as the dead fishes. The rotten water may cause skin diseases and respiratory problems. No one should eat these fishes, the doctor sounded a note of caution. At a press conference yesterday (Wednesday), leaders of Shusaner Jannyo Nagorik (SUJON) demanded trial of water board officials and contractors for the collapse of the flood barriers as they caused the maximum damage in the district surpassing all previous records. The fragile barriers collapsed because of corruption, they alleged. The SUJON leaders, including its general secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar, demanded rehabilitation of the farmers affected and trial of those responsible for the catastrophe.

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