The delay in reopening of Taraporewala aquarium at Charni Road by over six months has resulted in the death of at least 130 fish and an escalation in budget by Rs 3 crore. Minister Eknath Khadse, in charge of the fisheries department, visited the aquarium Thursday and insisted that the aquarium be thrown open to the public on February 27. The aquarium was shut in March 2013 and was scheduled to reopen by August last year.
Of the 250 fish at the old aquarium, however, only 120 species have survived, officials said. A turtle, two freshwater tortoises and around 100 other fish have died at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education in Versova, mainly due to lack of supervision.
“The turtles fought, alligators were exposed to the sun longer than they should have been and some fish died due to old age, but mainly due to lack of care,” said an official from the fisheries department. who did not wish to be named. Authorities have imported around 100 varieties of exotic fish for the new aquarium.
Even as the deadline looms, the surviving fish are still at the Versova institute and officials said they would be shifted to the revamped aquarium by Wednesday, while 10 of the 25 imported species of fish are yet to arrive.
“Some of the imported fish varieties are yet to come from Singapore and will be seen in the tanks only next month,” said an official, involved with Utekar fisheries, the contractor looking after the quarantine facility for the fish. Around 2,000 fish have been quarantined.
When Newsline visited the aquarium on Saturday, most tanks were empty as the fish were in quarantine, the floors were still submerged in water due to an accidental spill and the overhead tunnel aquarium at the entrance had water droplets forming on the outside.
Delay in procuring imported glass for the new fish tanks from China and Germany, ill-fitting glass leading to leaks and the general slow pace of work meant that the aquarium was shut for six more months, officials from the fisheries department said, pointing fingers at the Public Works Department (PWD).
“Because the tanks kept leaking as the glass was not installed properly, we got the aquarium to begin work only in August 2014, six months late. Only then could we begin purchase of fish and testing the water and the new filtration system,” said an official from the fisheries department.
Meanwhile, PWD blames the ageing drainage system for the delay. “The drainage system was built in the 1950s and we had leaks. Because of the new load with the new set of tanks, the drainage used to get choked up. What started out as an internal aquarium upgrade, now included getting the drainage system in order and building the compound wall,” said a PWD official on condition of anonymity.
After being shut for almost two years, the aquarium will finally reopen this week, but without the earlier promised foot spa by Garra Rufa. “In 2012-13, just four lakh people visited the aquarium but we hope the number of visitors will go up by 30 per cent and people will get to see new exotic species,” said MB Gaikawad, fisheries commissioner. He declined to comment on the delay, saying he took over “only 15 days ago”.