IN A bid to generate greater revenue and provide large-scale employment to villagers, the state government has decided to explore the potential of the existing dams to promote fisheries.
A conservative estimate shows the government can tap Rs 2,000 crore annually by opening up all dams for fishing sectors across Maharashtra. The details of the policy are being worked out by the ministries of revenue, water resources, finance and fisheries.
According to a senior official, “We have always looked at dams as a source of water for serving agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes. The utility of dams beyond these were never considered. The investment in dams for fishing will be minimal. We have focus on desilting to ensure sustained water levels.”
Even the soil which is unearthed from the dams can fetch more revenue if processed and made into sand, so that it can be diverted for construction of houses. The nutrient-rich soil will bring higher yield to farmers in their fields, and can be supplied for free. But the sand segregated from the soil will be of high quality and can be awarded through tenders. The sale of sand can bring higher revenue to the government. “The sand supply can check illegal mining along the rivers beds and also ensure better quality for housing.” the official added.
Currently, the existing dams have huge potential to promote fishing for both domestic and export purposes. The fisheries will also help in opening new avenues of employment in the villages along the dams.
According to NABARD’s status paper (2015-16), “The credit projections for the year 2015-16 was estimated at Rs 540 crore for activities under fishery as against the disbursement of 300.77 during the year 2013-14.”
The fish production accounts for 23 per cent of the total fish production in conformation with its share of fisheries resources 24 per cent of state. However, the share of inland fisheries potential would go up to 44 per cent considering the additional resources by way of aquaculture in reservoir cage farming and fresh water prawn in inland saline water according to the report.
The inland fisheries are confined to village ponds, inland saline areas, water logged areas, reservoirs irrigation tanks and rivers. It accounts for an area of 3.24 lakh hectares (excluding rivers) with production of 2.04 lakh tonnes. The state with a 720 km coastal stretch promises marine fishing which has become stagnant at 4 lakh tonnes. The lack of infrastructure such a cold storage and ware houses and established markets have stunted the fishing sector.
Since the markets are in the hands of unorganised sector, fishermen have to rely on the middle man to sell catch.
Earlier, the chief minister had at a meeting directed the Fisheries Department to adopt technologies to upgrade the fishing technique that would also enable fishermen or women higher remunerations. He had also called for higher investments in the sector such as approach road, jetty, landing centres hatchery nursery, ice plant for promoting the sector on the lines of scientific stock management.