Monday, November 26, 2012
FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE – POTENTIAL FOR BLUE REVOLUTION IN NORTH EAST
The seven contiguous land-locked states of North-Eastern Religion of India, commonly called ‘Seven Sisters” consisting Arunachal Pradesh , Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura present a paradoxical picture of being ‘poor’ in the midst of ‘plenty’. This is one of the richest regions of India in terms of biodiversity and natural resources. The region has rich and diverse aquatic resources in different topographical and climatic conditions in the plains of the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys in Assam, plains of Tripura, upland plain lands of the Imphal valley in Manipur to the predominantly hilly regions of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh with elevations ranging from 200-7089 m above mean sea level (MSL). The annual rainfall in the region exceeds 2,000 mm and more than 60% of the area is covered by forest. The soil are mostly acidic in nature, having ph in the range 4.5-5.0.
Fish have long been an important food item for the inhabitants of the region. Fish as been associated with the life of the people of northeast India from time immemorial. Not only it provides nutritious food, but also forms an unbreakable relationship with the culture, region, and traditions of the region. With almost 100% of population being fish eaters, except in Assam (90%) supply and demand.
A detail account of available fisheries and aquaculture resources and the fish production obtained in different states of the NE region , as in 2008-09 to that, the per capita availabilility of fish in the region was estimated to be around 6075 kg, which was lower than the national availability of 9.00 kg . World Health Organisation pegged 11 kg fish per year as minimum nutritionally required fish protein for human being . None of these states were able to meet this requirement except Tripura (10.94 kg). To meet the demand of the people, the region is importing fish to the tune of 38,340 tons per annum in addition to some unaccounted import from the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Brahmaputra and Barak rivers along with their tributaries and basins for resources of unparalleled magnitude and account for over 50% of the potential water resources in the country. The region is enrich with many freshwater species of fish and is also considered to be one of the hot spots of freshwater fish biodiversity in the world.
It can be concluded that the region is blessed with plenty of aquatic resources in a form of river, pond/ mini- barrage, reservoir, and wetlands. Resource under pond/ mini barrage is also continuously on rise, especially since 2008-09, on account of implementation of MGNREGA(e.g. in Tripura this resource has increased to 24, 094 has by 2011-12). The total fish production in different states, during 2008-09 was much less as compared to the production potential (4.88 lakh ton) of available resources (excluding rivers), even with modest targets of productivity with expected increase in resource (pond/mini barrage) and average productivity in recent years (2009-2012), fish production potential of the region can be expected to be even much higher. This indicates that the fisheries and aquaculture resources are underutilized and have potential to fulfil the nutritional requirement of fish eating populace of the region (4.78 lakh ton)
If one under takes fish culture and allied activities in a form of enterprise, based on proven scientific knowledge latest technology package, together with proper planning, then it can be the most profitable venture particularly in North-East Region where marketing of these produce is not a problem. Moreover, the much talked about economic development of NE region points to the needs for fisheries & aquaculture development as an important constituent of economic activity .
Industrial development has it own limitations in all the states of the region, except Assam, due to inherent communication problems. Thus development of agriculture and allied is the sole option in this region for its much required economic development as well as for fulfilling the local need. Agriculture alone cannot bear the burden of providing food for all and gainful employment to the rural population. It is estimated that 40-60% of the work force in agriculture are not profitably employed and above 70% of the population in this region is below 34 years of age. If suitable employment opportunities are not provided to this predominantly rural population, it is bound to result in urban migration with problematic consequences.
The present man- land ratio ( cultivable area ) in this region is less than 1:0.1 ha which is bound to deteriorate further with increase in population and very little scope for increase in the cultivable area for agriculture. Any significant increase in the cultivable area cannot be expected as it would mean reduction in forest coverage which is already alarmingly low than desirable (<47% presently against>60% required environmentally) . Thus , scope for horizontal expansion in agriculture is very limited. Vertical expansion has also its own limitations due to soil type and climate conditions of the region. As such, diversification of efforts , by tapping other available resources of the region, is a must. With high rate of precipitation and valley gradient of 15-20 cm per km, extensive floodplains and water logged areas are available, forming a very good fishery & aquaculture resource. Fisheries & aquaculture has also got an edge over other allied agricultural activities in terms of economic returns and nutritional value. Development of fisheries sector can also go a long way in solving the problem of gainful additional employment opportunities to region explicitly points out to the need for this sector’s development, both for dietary need and economic development.
The available statistics of trained manpower in fisheries sector , during post-independent era, suggest that the North Eastern states have received proportionately better representation in various fishery related centrally sponsored training programmes, compared to other states of the country. Presently the region has two fishery colleges (Assam & Tripura) with majority of their seats for the states of the region , producing good number of B.F. Sc. & M.F. Sc. On a regular basis , in addition to those from other Fishery college of the country and central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai. Evidently , therefore , there is no dearth of trained manpower in the states of region.
The required approach to realize the available potential and bring in the possible “ BLUE REVOLUTION” in this region would required an authentic database, comprehensive planning , policy and technological support, proper implementation (with due importance to the sector and allocation of adequate financial resources) and strict monitoring. Tripura is a good example where such efforts, made in the recent, have yielded desired results. This states is now surplus in fish seed production (15kg per capita availability of fish from local production during 2011-12).
To be precise the approach for much needed development of fishery sector in NE region should be to give due importance to the sector and efficient effective management of the available resources (physical & human). The main problem of present under potential performance of this sector in this region appears to be more a management crisis than resource crisis of any form. Potential does exist to bring in the much needed “ BLUE REVOLUTION”, not only to increase the fish availabilility but also to accelerate the pace of economic growth of the region. This only requires a planned concerted effort of all concerned.
Posted by Dr.Kumar at 3:18 AM