Fishery as an agenda for Barak Festival-2017

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ZK Pahrii Pou
Through this write-up, I would like to humbly appeal the Chief Minister of Manipur Shri N. Biren Singh and the Shri N. Kayisii, Minister in-charge for Fisheries, Shri L. Dikho, Minister PHED, and the Organisers of Barak Festival, to think, promote and encourage the villagers to take up fishery along the tributaries of Barak River. This will not only serve as an alternative source of livelihood but also as a means of regenerating nature. As Senapatians (or allow me to call as Tahamzamians – the people of Tahamzam) are gearing up for celebration of its annual Barak Festival, follow up action or plan must also be properly chalked out before hand. Without follow up action, Barak Festival will be just another waste of time and money.

If we do not do anything to save Barak River, very soon the river will run dry and the celebration of Barak Festival will be an insult to the River. It will be unfair to celebrate Barak Festival with all pomp and show, or the Chief Guest promising to improve NHs, or construction of women’s market but without mentioning anything about the well being of Barak River. This festival should not be a mere occasion of enjoyment for the rich and the educated people of the state. The benefit of Barak Festival must reach to the River, the poor and illiterate villagers.

1. Farming water through fishery ponds: Hill areas of Manipur receive abundant rain during the monsoon period. However rain water that falls on the ground freely runs off the hills within few hours of rain. Despite receiving monsoon rain in abundance, people continue to face water scarcity. This rain water can be preserved or harvested through digging fishery ponds. As fishery ponds will collect water during rainy season and release it in small quantity, Barak River will flow throughout the year with good amount of water. This will not only keep the River alive but also help the farmers to cultivate their paddy field with sufficient amount of water. Therefore it is my earnest request to you to initiate fishery in all the tributaries of Barak River. If hundreds of fishery ponds were dug in all the Mao-Poumai villages with tributaries of Barak River, sufficient amount of rain water can be harvested and keep the river flows. Let us farm water through fishery. When good amount of water flows in the river, life of all forms will flourish. This will be a great achievement of the celebration of Barak Festival.

2. Fishery as alternative source of income: For many villages of Poumai and Mao, cabbage cultivation is their main source of income. Many trees were cut down and burnt for this purpose. In this process the top fertile soil is exposed and rain and wind takes them away. Each year the soil fertility is decreasing forcing the cabbage growers to use chemical fertilisers which destroy the health of nature. Cabbage farming not only destroys forest and soil fertility but is also labour intensive. Fishery can be done without much labour. It can be an alternative source of income for these poor farmers. If a farmer dug a medium size fishery pond, he/she can easily rear fish for 200 kg and the income could reach Rs.50,000 (200 kg of fish x Rs 250 per kg) in a year. Fishery is an important aspect of sustainable development that needs to be actively pursued in the hill areas of Manipur.

3. Fishery as employment: With nearly seven lakhs registered unemployed educated youth in the state, government cannot give employment to all of them. Fishery can be a good source of employment for the youth. As a pilot project, it can start from Liyai Village not because that the village has the River’s main source but because of the fact that the village is exceptionally undeveloped economically and educationally. Comparing with other bigger villages, Laii 30.43%, Purul akutpa 73.75%, Tungjoy 58.37%, the literacy rate of Liyai village is extremely low at 19.48%, with 23.12% and 15.69% for men and women respectively. In this low literacy rate, one can imagine how many government service holders will be there in Liyai village. Therefore, fishery should be introduced to generate self-employment for thousands of poor villagers in the hill areas. Youth must be encouraged to take up fishery as well as dealing it in the market.

4. Fishery and natural vegetation: As hundreds of fishery ponds will retain and release water throughout the year, it will help plants and trees to grow in abundance. In return, these trees and plants will help in fertilising soil as well as recharge water source. With the flourishing of natural vegetation, the population of birds and animals will increase. Therefore, along with fishery, planting of trees that are locally suitable and ecologically viable will help in regenerating nature’s health.

5. Fish an important part of food: Tahazamians heavily depend on chickens such as broiler and layer for food. These chickens are fed with factory processed feeds that are heavily chemical-ised and are proven to be health hazard. At the same time, fish that are available in Senapati market are mostly imported from outside the state. This fish may not have much health value as it spent months of its life during transportation. Locally cultured fish will give much better taste than imported fish. Locally grown fish will have great benefit for our health.
Concluding remark: I am apprehensive of the kind of suggestion from some quarters about developing tourism spot at the source of Barak River-which can cause permanent ecological degradation if not planned properly. I am also not in favour of construction of mega-dam on Barak River which would literally kill this Mighty and Blessed River forever.

Fishery is one of the best means to keep Barak River alive. The state government must explore all possible means to initiate and encourage fishery that will save Barak River, regenerate nature and give employment to thousands of poor villagers. We are fortunate to have a Chief Minister who has great concern for the welfare of Hill people, and the two Ministers from Mao community, whose constituencies will be greatly benefited if Barak River is preserved and developed. It’s right time to act and save Barak River- the lifeline of Poumai, Mao, Maram and Zeliangrong people.

Dear Tahamzamians, let us celebrate -Barak Festival 2018 with Barak produce: Barak Rice, Barak Water, Barak Fish, and Barak Vegetables.

Source: The Sangai Express

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