BANKE : River has been playing an important role for the development of human civilization from the primitive era. International law has been formulated with an objective to save the water resources, one of the main components of environment, from pollution.
Law and regulations have made an important contribution to conserve and manage the water sources in Nepal.
Participation and political commitments are not enough for the development. The implementation of the commitments made with the people are equally imporant.
Speaking at a program organized by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (Nefej), Secretary at the Rakam Karnali Community Aquatic Animal Conservation Group Ram Bahadur BK said that though the municipality has endorsed the Aquatic Animal Conservation Act 2075, it has not received the full right.
Matela Ramagadh Community Aquatic Animal Conservation Group Chairman Dhiren Badi said that it is not going to work by only approving the policy. He added that the role of local government, ward office and locals will be important to implement the aquatic animal policy. Chairman Badi urged the concerned authority to implement the policy in an effective way with the help of Aquatic Animal Conservation Group.
A local fish trader Daya Kami said that they used to find a lot of fish in the rivers in the past but the number of fish has been dwindling day by day. “We catch the fish and sell them to the people and we spend the for running the house,” he said. “Now, it is very difficult to get the fish. If we quit our job, how will we run our house and take care of our family?” he questioned.
Rakam Karnali Fish Group Treasurer Lila Giri said that preparations are underway to establish a cooperative by incorporating all the fish groups of the municipality. She urged fishermen, fish traders and market management to help them establish a cooperative by taking the membership. Giri said that they could not register the cooperative due to lack of membership.
Kamal Bazaar Municipality ward-3 Chairman Jagat Bahadur Bista said that the border of the ward is just one km away from the Karnali River and they are ready to conserve this area. He said that the area can be conserved by installing fence wires.
Similarly, Nepal Majhi Sangh, Dailekh, Chairman Nawaraj Majhi claimed that the occupation of Majhi Community (fishing community), one of the marginalized communities of the country, is at risk. “Locals should not only kill the fish but should also joined hands to conserve the fish to protect and to promote the Majhi Community,” he said. Local Ramita Badi expressed her worry about the dwindling the number of fish in comparison to the past. She underscored the need for skill trainings to earn a living. “How long do we have to fish on the river to earn our living?” she questioned. She further said that the local government has not given priority to their community.
Nepal Red Cross Society, Rakam Karnali Chairman Arjun Shahi said that the policy implementation will be eased if they become successful to make the locals understand about the necessity of policy and conservation to reap long-term benefit by protecting the wetland areas. “The policy implementation side will be weak until the river-dependent families are not identified,” he said.
Answering the queries of the participants, Aathbis Municipality ward-4 Chairman Rana Bahadur Shah said that Rs 90 million will be invested under the economic development program to uplift the living standard of the people of Majhi, Dalit and other marginalized communities. He said that one ward, one agricultural program will be implemented from ward 1 to 9.
Chairman Majhi said that though he is from Majhi Community, he has not been able to do anything for the Majhi and other marginalized communities. Majhi added that he will carry out result-oriented works in coordination with municipality and ward office in the coming days. The role of local community and local government will be important to protect the identity of Majhi Community.
The implementation has become weak as the concerned authority has not been able to punish those who enter the conserved area and kill the aquatic animals by using current and nets as per the law. Majhi, who is also a member of Fish Conservation Group, urged everyone to become active for the effective implementation of the policy.
Saying that not only Majhi Community, other communities are also being active to kill the fish, Majhi said that it is essential to raise awareness by including all of them in the program. Aathbis Municipality ward-8 Chairman Mukti Prasad Upadhayay said that it is necessary to identify the river-dependent families. He said that the municipality and ward office are collecting the resources for an alternative occupation for the river-dependent families. He said that all the necessities could not be fulfilled at one time. Municipality Chief said that the city council has allocated the budget and is on the process of implementation for the alternative occupation of the river-dependent families after the number of fish started decreasing day by day.
Considering the effects of human activities on the environment, chief speaker Khadag Raj Upadhayay said that Aathbis Municipality Rakam Karnali, Dailekh has allocated Rs 200,000 for the homestay and Rs 150,000 to buy rafting equipment to attract local youths in the tourism business and to operate homestay for 25 families. Upadhayay further said that the province government has also promised to provide Rs 8 million.
Speaking at the program, Mid-Karnali Wetland Area Management expert of Paani Project Sudip Acharya said that the main objective of the Paani Project is to improve the water sources, conserve aquatic biodiversity and minimize the risk over aquatic biodiversity, among others. During the program, Acharya said that 153 types of fish were found in Mid-Karnali Wetland Area. He said that 20 places from Galje to Ramaghat were appropriate for fish conservation. Saying that people are found fishing more in the fish conservation areas, he said that it is essential to protect those areas.
The Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (Nefej) organized the discussion on fish conservation in the Paani discussion program under the Paani Project with the financial assistance of USAID.
During the program, local representatives and concerned stakeholders expressed their commitment to help as much as they can from their side.
Aathbis Municipality Chief Khadag Raj Upadhayay, chairmen from ward 1 to 9, Kamal Bazaar Municipality ward-3 chairman, members, police personnel from area police office, officials from Nepal Majhi Sangh, Dailekh, Paani Project, Nepal Red Cross Society Rakam Dailekh, journalists and locals among others were present in the program.
The program had endorsed a six-point commitment for the fish conservation.
- To use fish-friendly nets to catch fish and to ban 0 to 2-inch fishing nets.
- To identify the river-dependent families and to encourage them from the alternative occupation.
- To ban fishing during night time and to formulate a policy of mandatory permission for the fishing community.
- To make policy and programs for conservation of the aquatic animals.
- To stop fishing during the breeding season from Mid-March to Mid-May. Municipality along with local administration will take ahead the process to take action against those who are found fishing during this time under the Aquatic Animal Conservation Act 2075.
- To table a proposal within January 10, 2020 seeking budget for the members of the fish community and ward office and municipality will release the budget within the proposed time frame.