Jammu and Kashmirs efforts to promote pisciculture as a means of employment are gradually drawing in young Kashmiris. Among the fish the government is promoting to revive a flagging trade is carp,which can resist pollution better than local varieties.
The government helped me set up a farm. It gave me 1,300 fries to begin with and my business has grown since, says Farooq Ahmad,30,of Kanibach Bandipora,who started two years ago and breeds grass,silver and common carp. In the first year,I bred three-and-a-half quintals of fish; in the second,a quarter short of five quintals.
The state government has been implementing a number of fishery schemes with which it has helped young entrepreneurs take it up as a business. These involve financial assistance as well as technical training. Some of these are central schemes,such as the National Mission for Protein Supplements (NMPS) under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.
Officials with the fisheries department say all one requires to get government assistance in setting up a farm is land and access to water. Farooq,for instance,owns three kanals.
The government provides Rs 1.5 lakh for a carp farm and Rs 2.40 lakh for a trout farm to people who have land measuring about two kanals. We have 18 government-run farms in the state and around 1,000 private fish farms,of which 700 are of carp and 197 of trout, says director for fisheries Dr R K Dogra.
The government began to promote trout farming some five years ago. Getting so many people involved has been a big achievement as this farming requires skill and trout need special conditions to grow, Dogra says.
Water bodies across the landlocked state provide an ideal breeding ground for certain varieties of fish. Indeed,locals have bred fish for ages but overall production was declining when the government stepped in. There has been a decline in fish production from natural sources for the past three or four decades due to pollution and encroachment. It has badly affected fishermen who survive on this trade, says Dr Feroz Bhat,associate professor at the Sher-e-Kashmir University Of Agricultural Sciences.
We have tried to culture carp in natural water bodies because such fish can resist a certain degree of pollution,whereas local fish cant survive in polluted waters, Bhat says.
Ghulam Nabi of Harwan is encouraged enough to think about expanding his farm. I am thinking of building another farm. It has worked well so far, he says. He says fries provided by the department grew to up to three kilograms. I sold them at Rs 300 and above between April and July. The fish take a year to grow to that size.
Dr Bhat feels the fishing sector needs to be privatised and land to be mapped out. One needs to determine which area is suitable for which kind of fish, Bhat says.
Bhat suggests the government ban fishing totally during the breeding season. Fishing during the breeding season has to be banned so that the juveniles dont get killed before attaining maturity, Bhat says.And pollution in natural water bodies has to be brought down.