Monday January 22, 2018

Bhutan is fighting hard to conserve the Threatened Iconic Fish ‘Golden Mahseer’

In Bhutan, the golden mahseer is considered as one of the eight auspicious signs associated with Buddhism, as practised in the Himalayan region

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The Iconic fish of Bhutan, Golden Mahseer. Image source: mahseer-fly-fishing.blogspot.com
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  • The golden mahseer of Bhutan is also known as ‘Tor putitora’
  • The Bhutan government is taking steps to conserve it by allocating hatcheries right besides the dams where these fishes are usually found
  • This doesn’t stop the Bhutanese government from building hydroelectric dams 

One of the best known fish found in South Asian waters is the golden mahseer or ‘Tor putitora’. Growing to a length of nine feet and weighing up to 40kg, makes it one of the most sought-after gaming fish in the world. At one point, the fish was found along the whole Himalayan belt, from northern Pakistan to present-day Myanmar. It was also found in the waters of Iran and Thailand.

Unfortunately, environmental degradation and unrestricted fishing have had a catastrophic impact on its population. Today, it is listed on the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species. In India, the private company, Tata Power has spearheaded a campaign to breed and release fishes into the rivers. In Nepal, it continues to face severe challenges as laws go unenforced.

“The rivers of southern Bhutan are its greatest hope for survival, as long as action is taken soon to keep the threats to mahseer at bay” states a World Wildlife Fund report. The health of the big fish is also a measure of the health of the river ecosystems of Bhutan, which impact all the flora and fauna living in and around the water bodies.

For Bhutan, a Buddhist country, the golden mahseer has religious significance as well, as the fish is one of the eight auspicious signs associated with Buddhism as practised in the Himalayan region.

The challenge of dams

This iconic fish is found in the Punatsangchhu river, which runs for 320 km from its source in Bhutan to the point where it meets the Brahmaputra in India. Two major hydroelectric dam projects – Punatsangchhu-I and Punatsangchhu-II – are being built on the river.

“The golden mahseer migrates all the way from India to upstream rivers in Bhutan for breeding and feeding  that since no proper scientific study had been conducted, there is no way of knowing how the dams will affect the fish. Nevertheless, since the fish have been sighted upstream in Punatsangchhu earlier, the dams may prevent the mahseer from migrating for spawning and feeding.” Singye Tshering, programme director at the National Centre for Riverine and Lake Fisheries told thethirdpole.net.

Rivers flowing in Bhutan. Image source Wikimedia commons
A River in Bhutan. Image source Wikimedia commons

There is no official record kept of the fish in the area, but according to Kinley, who was posted by the Bhutanese government, 15 years ago to keep track of the iconic fish, the number has declined since the hydroelectric projects commenced.

Mitigation measures

Singye Tshering told thethirdpole.net “while this may not be an ideal mitigation measure, it is recommended especially for conditions found in Bhutan, where gorges, rugged terrain and swiftly flowing rivers mean that fish passages and fish ladders will not work to offset the blockages created by dam construction. He said fish migrating upstream for breeding are collected and bred artificially in the hatchery near the dam and later released back into the river. That way, we can ensure that the fish are able to breed and sustain their population.” Officials from National Centre for Riverine and Lake Fisheries and environment officials at the Punatsangchhu project identified alocation for a hatchery at Harrachu, a few kilometres away from Punatsangchhu-II, in November 2015. The golden mahseer hatchery project is being built at an estimated cost of $2.8 million.

The management plan includes the identification of spawning and feeding grounds and declaring them as sanctuaries as well as promoting and developing fish-based tourism to promote a sense of ownership among the people to protect fishery resources. With World Wildlife Fund funding, the ministry of forest and agriculture has started a scientific remote radio telemetry study on the golden mahseer to understand its habitat. The project also hopes to establish baseline data for the mahseer population and identify migration patterns. The study is underway in the Manas river basin covering the Mangdechhu and Dangmechhu rivers.

Taking steps to conserve mahseer, Bhutan continues to build hydroelectric dam which is the main source of their economy.

-by Vrushali Mahajan, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: Vrushali Mahajan

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Our Flora and Fauna is our heritage and is need to be protected. Its great that Bhutan is taking measures to preserve their Fauna.

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7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

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Places to visit in North East India.
Places to visit in North East India. Pixabay

North Eastern India, the home to the ‘Seven Sisters’ is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions, yet the most unexplored part of the country. From Shillong’s rainfall to Assam’s beautiful tea gardens, the region is indeed the home to exotic beauty. However, the tourism of the region has gained pace in the recent years. The picturesque views of the streams, hills and farms are breathtaking.

Here is the list of 7 beautiful places to visit in North East India:

1. Kaziranga National Park

places to visit in North East India
Kaziranga National Park. Pixabay.

Kaziranga national park in Assam is famous for its one-horned rhinoceros. It is the most famous tourist spot & one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India. The place has been declared a UNESCO heritage site and attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world. Hundreds of migratory birds and around 35 species of mammals fly down every season to the national park. The incredible fauna cannot be found anywhere else in India.

2. Nathula Pass

Places to visit in North East India.
Nathula Pass. Wikimedia.

A trek on the Nathula Pass in Sikkim will give you a memory completely irreplaceable. The beautiful scenic views which you will observe through your trek journey can be found nowhere else in India & makes if one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India. A vacation to this place with your family during the summers is a must. Also the fact that a bearable temperature in the summer season will let you enjoy your trek more. A trek in the Nathula pass should right away be added to your bucket list.

3. Cherrapunji

Places to visit in North East India.
Cherrapunji. Wikimedia.

Cherrapunji in Meghalaya is the world’s wettest place. The place is known for receiving the maximum rainfall in the world. And, the weather of the place adds to its beauty. It is definitely one of the beautiful places to visit in North East India.

Also Read: 5 Inspiring Travel Stories That Will Give You Serious Wanderlust

4. Phodong Monastery

Places to visit in North East India.
Phodong Monastery. Wikimedia.

According to reports, the Phodong monastery in Sikkim is built in the 18th century. It situated 28 kms from Gangtok. It is known to be one of the most religious places for a sect of Buddhists. The place is a residence to around 260 monks. The place is full of positive energy. The people around the monastery are amicable and have some interesting stories in their pockets to tell you. The architecture of the monastery depicts a unique culture and beauty. These characteristics make this monastery, one of the beutiful places to visit in North East India. So grab your tickets soon!

5. Dampa Tiger Reserve

places to visit in North East India
A bird in the Dampa Tiger Reserve. Wikimedia.

Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram is the largest wildlife sanctuary in Mizoram & a must visit place in north east india. The Tiger Reserve is a home to leopards, barking deer, sloth bear, langurs, Indian Python and a variety of birds. The fauna and flora of the place will leave you stunned.

6. Majuli Islands

Places to visit in North East India.
Majuli Island. Wikimedia.

A river island situated along the Brahmaputra is a home to many tribes. A variety of birds can be found on the island. The size of the island has been reduced due to river erosion by the Brahmaputra.

7. Shilloi lake

Places to visit in North East India.
Shilloi Lake. Wikimedia.

Shilloi lake, the largest natural lake in Nagaland situated in the state’s Phek district is covered by picturesque views including beautiful mountain peaks and trees. The best time to visit this lake is in the summer season. The beauty of the lake makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in North East India.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.

 Twitter: @ImMeghaacharya.