As the molasses started flowing into Harike wetland, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Kuldeep Kumar Friday inspected the area to assess the damage. “Today, I inspected the river from Harike wetland to the point from where molasses had entered the river near Kiri Afghana village. After the release of fresh water, pollution level has now decreased up to Gagrewal village. But still, Harike wetland is under the polluted water,” he said.
Officials are concerned about two species in particular, the endangered Indus Dolphin and Ghariyal. “We saw adequate number of Gharials in the Beas today and we are satisfied. We had released 47 earlier this year. We saw 17 of them. All cannot be visible at one time. It possibly mean all the Gharials are fine,” he said. However, the team did not spot any Dolphins. A joint count of the Dolphins by WWF and Punjab Forests and Wildlife Preservation department in the first week of May had estimated their population in the Beas as between 5 and 11. “So far, we haven’t seen any Dolphins. We will continue our survey for the next few days. But the water was too dirty in the region where Dolphins are found,” he said.
Gitanjali Kanwar, wildlife coordinator at the Harike wetland, said, “Exact numbers of Dolphins are difficult to ascertain at one time. One day is not enough for the survey. It may take a week. We hope we will see them in coming days.” Kuldeep Kumar said, “As far as the impact on other species is concerned, there is obviously large-scale mortality in this case because oxygen level had dropped very low and water had turned acidic due to dilution of sugar. It is very difficult to make an exact assessment, but we can say the effect is huge.”
“The water is not yet of good quality for aquatic life in Harike. Now, the polluted water is moving towards Rajasthan. It has not completely washed out from Harike Yet. We are hopeful that fresh water would reach here by tomorrow,” he said.
On Friday, Tarn Taran deputy commissioner Pardeep Kumar Sabharwal issued an advisory asking people not to eat the dead fish or let their cattle drink water from the river. Despite the advisory, a number of people were still taking away the dead fish, officials said.