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Fresh Water Fish Habitat Management


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Review paper prepared at the behest of Aquatic Eco-system Health and management, Canada

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Fresh Water Fish Habitat Management

  1. 1. This article was downloaded by: [] On: 7 September 2008 Access details: Access Details: [subscription number 901775928] Publisher Taylor & Francis Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: Freshwater fish habitat science and management in India S. K. Ghosh a; A. G. Ponniah b a Technical Services Department (Fisheries), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Pune, India b Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture, Chennai, India Online Publication Date: 01 July 2008 To cite this Article Ghosh, S. K. and Ponniah, A. G.(2008)'Freshwater fish habitat science and management in India',Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management,11:3,272 — 288 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/14634980802319044 URL: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Full terms and conditions of use: This article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
  2. 2. Freshwater fish habitat science and management in India S. K. Ghosh1∗ and A. G. Ponniah2 1 Technical Services Department (Fisheries), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Maharashtra R. O., 54, Wellesley Road, Post Bag No.5, Shivaji Nagar, Pune – 411 005, India 2 Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture, 75, Santhome High Road, Chennai – 600028, India ∗ Corresponding author: India is a land of diverse topography, climate and natural resource. There are 12 major rivers and 48 lesser rivers with a total catchment area of 277.6 million ha. The freshwater resources of the country, which Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 are varied, harbor 587 species of finfishes, and account for 9.3 percent of global inland fish production. India’s natural capital of fish habitat resource has been eroded as reflected in loss of biodiversity and reduced fish landings. Studies on the ecology, environment and fisheries of five major river systems, in addition to reservoirs and flood plain lake fisheries, have been conducted with greater focus on water quality and less on physical habitat parameters. River conservation programs cover major rivers in 10 states of the country; the ‘Ganga Action Plan’ being the most important. These projects target improvement in water quality and not fish habitat. Lack of concern for fish habitat is reflected in the planning of Farakka Barrage, a large dam built to divert the flow of River Ganga (The Ganges) into the Hooghly River, and its impact on the ‘Hilsa’ run. Environmental laws have not achieved desired results for lack of enforcement mechanisms. Freshwater habitat management in India raises both concern and hope. Concern arises out of the missing elements in current fish habitat research, planning and management of resource. The hope for the future is increasing public awareness on the need for better resource management and environmental conservation. In the backdrop of the learning from implementation of the eco-restoration programmes, the task appears to be not only challenging but also demanding in terms of participation of stakeholders, commitment of resources, backup of research support, monitoring of environmental standards, enforcement of regulations and setting up of priorities in terms of conservation of the natural assets. Keywords: Ganges, Hilsa, biodiversity, conservation, floodplain Introduction origins both within and outside of the sector. Increas- ing harvest pressure, destructive fishing operations, Sustainable exploitation of fish stocks and con- introduction of exotics, are examples of factors from servation of fish habitat are matters of deep con- within the sector responsible for increasing pressure cern for fishery scientists and administrators all over on fish stocks. The factors outside the sector are the world. Humans have been exploiting aquatic re- related to aquatic and terrestrial resource use. The sources ever since their presence on this planet to aquatic resource uses with potential adverse impact meet their basic necessities. However, the past cen- on fish habitat are water abstraction for irrigation, tury has witnessed increasing pressure on freshwater electricity generation, domestic use, industrial use. fish stocks and habitats for reasons that have their The threat to fish habitat from terrestrial resource use 272 Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management, 11(3):272–288, 2008. Copyright C 2008 AEHMS. ISSN: 1463-4988 print / 1539-4077 online DOI: 10.1080/14634980802319044
  3. 3. Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 273 may be in the form of increased siltation, reduced 1 billion mark. The growth rate during 1996–2006 water yield, and deterioration of water quality, with is expected to be 1.57%. their origin traced to human activities like defor- estation, destructive agricultural practices, mining, Overview of freshwater resources dumping of untreated sewage and industrial wastes etc. All forms of resource use at their end gener- Precipitation, including snowfall, the main ate wastes that, if not mitigated, may render such source of freshwater, is estimated to be of the order exploitation unsustainable. Fish habitat cannot be of 4000 km3 per year. Natural runoff in the rivers protected without taking care of the sustainability is about 1869 km3 . Due to various constraints only of the human activities within the sector as well about 1122 km3 of the potential is put to beneficial as outside it. Therefore, fish habitat management use, of which, 690 km3 occurs as surface water re- needs an integrated approach seeking solutions to sources and the remainder as ground water resource. such problems both within and outside the sector. In Freshwater resources of the country are classified terms of resource management, not only manage- as rivers and canals, reservoirs, tanks and ponds, ment of the fish habitat under consideration is re- flood plain lakes and derelict water areas (Table 1). quired, but also the catchment areas of the drainage The length of major and medium rivers is estimated Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 basins. to be 29000 km or 45000 km including tributaries. Here, we ascertain for India: i) the status of the Not including rivers and canals, total water bodies freshwater fishery resources; ii) the state of fresh- cover an area of about 6.58 million ha (Table1) of water fish habitat science and its current focus; and which, the major components are tanks, ponds and iii) the prospects for freshwater fish habitat manage- reservoirs occupying 2.36 m. ha and 3.15 million ha, ment and its linkages with various aquatic and terres- respectively. trial ecosystem management programmes. An effort India has many rivers; as many as 12 of them are is made to identify priority research needs and gaps classified as major rivers whose total catchment area in institutional linkage, and project future trends in is 252.8 million ha. Of the major rivers, the Ganga - freshwater fishery science and habitat management Brahmaputra Meghana system is the largest with a in the country. catchment area of about 110 million ha Other major rivers with catchment area more than 10 million ha Country profile are Indus (32.1million ha), Godavari (31.3 million ha), Krishna, (25.9million ha) and Mahanadi (14.2 The total geographical area of India measures million ha). There are 48 medium rivers with catch- 3287263 sq km comprising of 2973001 sq. km of ment area of about 25 million ha. land area and 314262 sq. km of water area (I.1) Its A large number of small, medium and large river northern border is guarded by the loftiest mountain valley projects have been initiated in the past five range in the world, ‘The Himalayas’. It is surrounded decades for irrigation and hydro-electric power gen- by the Arabian Sea in the west, the Indian Ocean in eration. This has given rise to a chain of man-made the south, and the Bay of Bengal in the east (Fig lakes, dotting the Indian landscape. These reservoirs 1). It has a coastline of 8000 km with an Exclusive have been classified into three categories: small, Economic Zone of 2.02 million sq km. The land use pattern indicates arable land 57.7%, land under per- Table 1. Freshwater resources of India. manent crops 1%, permanent pastures 3.2%, forests and woodland 21.2%, and others 16.9% (I.2). The Resource Type Length/Area presence of the great Himalayan range on the north Rivers & Tributaries (km.) 45 000 and of the ocean on the south are the two major Canals (km.) 126 334 influences on the climate of India. The mountain Subtotal: 171 334 range provides an impenetrable barrier to the influ- Reservoirs (ha) 3 153 366 ence of cold winds from central Asia, and gives the Ponds & Tanks (ha) 2 355 300 sub-continent the elements of a tropical climate. The Flood Plain Wetlands (ha) 202000 Indian Ocean, which is the source of cool moisture- Derelict Water (ha) 868000 laden winds reaching India, gives it the elements of Subtotal: 6 578 666 an oceanic climate. The population of the country Total 6 750 000 which was 966 million in July 1997 has crossed the
  4. 4. 274 Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 Figure 1. Major river basins of India. medium and large reservoirs (Table 2). These man- river basins (Table 3). The area under flood plain made lakes account for 56% of the total fresh water lakes in the country is approximately 202000 ha resource excluding rivers and canals. However its (Sugunan, 2000). contribution to the fresh water fish production is less Ponds and tanks occupying 2.35 million ha than 3%. constitute the major aquaculture resource of India has extensive riverine wetlands in the form the country in terms of production (Table 1). of oxbow lakes, variously named as beel, jheel, The freshwater aquaculture sector accounts for mauns, and chaurs. These flood plain lakes are 75% of the inland fish production and about mostly found in the eastern and the north eastern part one-third of the total fish production in the of the country along the Ganges and Brahmaputra country.
  5. 5. Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 275 Table 2. India’s reservoir fishery resources (after Sugunan, 1995). Variable Small∗ Medium Large Total Size Class (ha.) <1000 1000–5000 >5000 Number 19134 180 56 19370 Area (ha.) 1485557 527541 1140268 3153366 Production (tonne) 74129 6488 13033 93650 Yield (kg ha−1 ) 49.90 12.30 11.43 Yield Potential (kg ha−1 ) 100 75 50 Potential (tonne) 148556 39565 57013 245134 Utilization of potential (percent) 49.90 16.40 22.86 38.20 ∗ Including irrigation tanks above 10 ha under this category. Other freshwater aquaculture resources, namely Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan has shown Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 canals and derelict water areas, are not being uti- that 46.7% of the fishes are shared by these group lized at present for aquaculture but could provide of countries (Ponniah, 2000). opportunities for running water aquaculture and air- From the major rivers of India, the number of breathing fish culture. fishes reported are for Ganga-192, Brahmaputra- 179, Godavari and Mahanadi-105, Narmada and Freshwater fish fauna Tapti - 60, Krishna - 104 and Cauveri-139 (Yazdani, 1992). Within India, the major hot spots of fish bio- Of the estimated 27,977 living species of fishes diversity are the Western Ghats and North East In- in the world (Nelson, 2006), India has 2,118 finfish dia comprising of the states of Assam, Manipur, species (Kapoor et al., 2000) distributed in different Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. Not ecosystems. Of these, 587 species are present in the only do they have a large number of species, they also freshwater habitat (Table 4). This latest compilation exhibit high degree of endemism and a large number (Kapoor et al., 2000) has been made based on con- of potential food and ornamental fishes (Ponniah and sultation of many published records and eliminating Sarkar, 2000, Ponniah and Gopalakrishnan, 2000). It synonyms. Talwar and Jhingran (1991) reported 930 is from these regions that new records (Arunachalam freshwater fishes belonging to 326 genera from the et al., 1998) as well as new species are continuing Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, to be described (Jayaraj et al., 1999; Zacharias and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). Comparison of the Minimol, 1999). freshwater species listed in FISHBASE (Fishbase, In a 1992 review of the 587 freshwater fishes, 1998) for India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, three were found to be endangered, 13 vulnerable, Table 3. The area and distribution of inundated flood plain lakes. States River Basins Area (ha) Ganga River system Bihar Gandak and Kosi 40000 West Bengal Hooghly and Matlah 42500 Brahmaputra River system Arunachal Pradesh Kameng, Subansiri, Dibang, Lohit, Dihing and Tirap 2500 Assam Brahmaputra and Barak 100000 Manipur Iral, Imphal and Thoubal 16500 Meghalaya Someswari and Jinjiram 213 Tripura Gumti 500 Total 202213
  6. 6. 276 Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 Table 4. Species diversity of Indian fishes in major aquatic ecosystems (Kapoor et al., 2000). Ecosystem Fish species (No.) Endemics (percent) Food fish (percent) Ornamental fish (percent) Freshwater 587 i.Western Ghat 283 67.1 16.3∗ 37.5∗ ii. North East 267 23.2 22.5 19.9 Estuarine 171 Marine 1360 Total 2118 ∗ Only endemics. two rare and 28 of indeterminate status (Mahanta strategy recommended is increasing mesh sizes, and et al., 1994). A Conservation Assessment of Man- decreasing fishing effort, and increasing stocking. agement Plan (CAMP) Workshop assessed 320 Medium and large reservoirs were developed for Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 freshwater fishes (Anon, 1998). capture fisheries, wherein the management norms include stock manipulation, adjusting fishing effort, Freshwater fisheries enforcement of conservation measures, and gear se- lectivity. Stocking is used as a management op- Riverine fisheries comprise artisanal, subsistence tion to correct species imbalances and fill vacant and traditional fishing activities. They are highly niches. Small reservoirs are managed as culture- dispersed and unorganized, making collection of based capture fisheries, where the major emphasis is data on fishing and fish yield difficult (Sinha,1999). on extensive aquaculture through intensive stocking The Central Inland Capture Fisheries Institute and harvesting. This strategy has yielded good re- (CIFRI), Barrackpore has collected data from se- sults as reflected from the per hectare yield of large lected stretches of river Ganga, Brahmaputra, Nar- (11.43 kg), medium (12.30 kg) and small reservoirs mada, Tapti, Godavari and Krishna. These rivers (49.90 kg) in the post development scenario (Table harbour a rich and varied fish fauna of which the 2). Production as high as 316 kg ha−1 has been ob- Gangetic system alone has 265 species, followed by tained in Chulliar, a small reservoir in Kerala (Su- the Brahmaputra system with 126 species and the gunan, 1995). It has been estimated that a modest peninsular rivers harboring 76 species (Sinha, 1999). increase in yield rate up to 100, 75, 50 kg ha −1 in Hook and line is the main gear in the upper stretches respect of small, medium and large reservoirs would where no organized fishery exists. The major fishing increase the production potential to 2.5 times the gears in use in the middle stretches are drag nets, gill current levels (Table 2). nets, cast nets, traps, and hook and line. In the lower Flood plain lakes provide important fishery stretches they include gill nets, drag nets, dip nets, resources considering their production potential purse seine, cast nets, scoop nets, hook, line and (1000–1500 kg ha−1 yr−1 ). The total production po- traps (Sinha et al., 1998). Available data show fish tential from this sector is estimated to be 0.21 million yield in these rivers ranges from 0.64 to 1.6 tonnes tonne. The present average production from these per km. (Sinha, 1999). lakes is quite low, 160 kg ha−1 yr−1 in Bihar and Data on reservoir fisheries of India are rare due to about 210 kg ha−1 yr−1 in West Bengal and Assam the common property nature of these resources, the (Sinha, 2000). Two distinct lines of fishery man- diverse modes of exploitation adopted by the State agement have evolved for these water bodies. The Governments, the scattered nature of the fish landing open lakes are developed with capture fisheries in centers, and the remoteness of many reservoirs. The the deeper central areas and culture fisheries in the fisheries potential of reservoirs was not evaluated inshore margins and pockets. In closed wetlands, until the 1970s, when fishery yields were as low as stocking is the mainstay of management. These lakes 5 to 8 kg.ha−1 yr−1 (Sugunan, 1995). Organised re- provide ideal condition for pen and cage culture. search was initiated in 1971 with the launching of All CIFRI has developed technologies with production India Coordinated Project on Reservoir Fisheries by possibilities of 4 t ha−1 in 6 months for carp, 1 t ha−1 CIFRI. These studies led to formulation of reservoir in 6 months for prawns in pens, and 0.25 kg (m2 )−1 fisheries management policies. The three-pronged for air breathing fishes in cages (Sinha, 2000).
  7. 7. Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 277 Freshwater aquaculture has emerged as a ma- to pollution; among the field studies 3.7% were on jor fish producing system in India, with produc- pollution related areas and 7% covered ecological tion around 2.35 million t yr−1 (I.3). Carps ac- topics. Most of the articles were on water quality counts for over 87% of farmed fish. Major carp parameters. This shows the greater focus given to species cultured are rohu (Labeo rohita), catla (Catla water quality parameters compared to studies on the catla) and mrigal (Cirrhinus mrigala). The other natural interaction between fish and habitat. Early species utilized under mono or polyculture are grass life stages and intraspecific variation in life history carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), common carp traits of Indian fishes have received little attention (Cyprinus carpio), silver carp (Hypothalmitchthys (Ponniah, 2001). molitrix), catfish (Clarius batrachus), singi (Het- Studies of habitat preference of larval and juve- eropneustes fossilis), rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus nile stages of Indian fishes have not been under- mykiss), and giant river prawn (Macrobrachium taken. Field experimental studies to determine ef- rosenbergii). Freshwater aquaculture has evolved fect of riparian alterations and habitat restoration from a domestic activity, as in the Eastern Indian are lacking for Indian freshwaters. Sand-mining and states of West Bengal, into an industry in the states civic pollution, along with hydroelectric projects, of Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh with pro- have led to habitat degradation of many hill streams Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 ductivity touching new heights. Productivity has in- and rivers but their impact on physical habitat, fine creased from 0.6–0.8 to 6–8 t ha−1 yr−1 . Major tech- sediment dynamics, invertebrates and fish have not nological developments during the 1970s backed been documented. Apart from pollution, the effects by the efforts of the State Directorates of Fisheries of most other anthropogenic disturbances have not and the 422 Fish Farmers Development Agencies been studied. While species assemblages have been (FFDAs) have created a strong production base of determined for many freshwater bodies, studies in- freshwater aquaculture, which has made India the cluding physical habitat are few. For Western Ghats second largest aquaculture production state in the streams, pioneering work has shown correlations world. So far, it has been possible to extend scien- between species diversity in the Chittar River of tific farming to 20% of the potential water area. The Western Ghats and variation in habitat character- average production of the areas covered by FFDAs istics such as substrate type, flow pattern, riparian is 2202 kg ha−1 yr−1 (Gopakumar et al., 1999). vegetation, fish cover, disturbance in riparian cor- ridors, water quality and natural barriers such as State of freshwater fish habitat big water-falls, (Arunachalam et al., 1997a). Sig- nificance relationships were found between species science in India richness and habitat diversity in some Western Ghat Studies on freshwater habitat streams (Arunachalam, 2000). Most of studies on Indian freshwater habitat have focused on water quality parameters. Purely physical Habitat requirements of Indian parameters like substrate, velocity, habitat types and freshwater fishes characteristics of channel, bank and riparian veg- etation, have received less attention. Compared to The spawning and feeding habitat of Indian fishes rivers, streams have received less attention and gen- have been described generally (Jhingran,1968; erally more focus has been on reservoirs compared Mitra, 1968). The Central Inland Fisheries Research to other natural aquatic habitats. To analyse the rel- Institute (CIFRI) had conducted spawn prospect- ative focus given to studies on Indian fish habitat, ing investigations in riverine stretches. Studies on Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) spawning and habitat requirement of the golden were searched sequentially for 12 years (1988– mahseer Tor putitora have been carried out by 1999) using key words India, fish, freshwater, en- Shrestha (1997), and on chocolate mahseer at the vironment and habitat. Only 301 entries amounting ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region (Ghosh, to 4.2% of Indian publications abstracted in ASFA 1996) and on Deccan mahseer (Tor khudree) by were found, indicating that little effort was directed Tata Electricals Co. Ltd, a private hydroelectric- to habitat studies. These abstracts were screened in- company (Sehgal et al., 2007). To identify the op- dividually to determine the specific area covered. Of timum and degraded areas in relation to the habi- these, only 4% were on laboratory studies related tat requirements of T. putitora, data on habitat
  8. 8. 278 Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 type, substratum, channel dimension, instream cover Under the All India Coordinated Research were collected from the Himalayan hill stream Lad- Project on the ‘Ecology and Fisheries of Reservoirs’, hiya (Srivastava et al., 2001). These studies have CIFRI conducted studies on biological and fisheries been expanded to include remote sensing images potential of reservoirs in relation to morphometric mainly to document changes in riparian vegeta- and hydro-edaphic factors and energy flow dynam- tion (NBFGR, 2000). Microhabitat use by juvenile ics. However, as the management of these water bod- and adult cyprinids was assessed in stream pools ies being vested with irrigation/electricity boards, of the south India river, Kallar (Arunachalam et the advocated fisheries management guidelines al., 1997b). Species-specific habitat requirements of largely remain unimplemented. CIFRI has stan- Western Ghats fishes from 10 streams have been dardized the technique of pen culture of carps and determined based on macrohabitat segregation and freshwater prawns in enclosed bays and conducted microhabitat use, (Arunachalam, 2000). Overall for research on the ecology and fisheries of flood plain Indian fishes, there are few specific studies aimed at lakes leading to suitable management strategies. determining the habitat requirements for larval and Studies to document freshwater genetic resources juvenile stages, and spawning grounds. from biodiversity hot spots have been undertaken under the National Agricultural Technology Project Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 funded by World Bank. NBFGR is the lead centre is Research institutes working on carrying out a project entitled ‘Germplasm Inven- fish habitat tory and Gene Banking of the Freshwater Fishes’ with 12 local collaborators mainly from North East Research on freshwater fish habitat falls within India and Western Ghats. The project has col- the mandate of the three research institutes under the lected data on both habitat data and fish germplasm Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). to better understand freshwater fish biodiversity, Also there are a number of agricultural and other ecological interactions and habitat requirements. For universities within the country with limited pro- prioritized endangered or potential cultivable / orna- grammes on fish habitat. The CIFRI is the nodal mental fishes, studies on life history traits, captive agency to conduct research on freshwater fish habi- breeding, genetic characterization and gene banking tat (I.4). The National Research Centre on Coldwa- are also being carried out. The results should help ter Fisheries (I.5) covers fish habitat related work in improve management of freshwater habitat of these hilly regions, and the National Bureau of Fish Ge- regions. netic Resources (NBFGR) (I.6) is working on con- servation of fish resources at the national level works and also on endangered fish habitat with the focus Survey of freshwater fish habitat on developing frehwater aquatic sanctuaries. Most management in India of the universities and colleges working on freshwa- ter fish habitat are concentrating more on pollution Legislative and regulatory treatment of aspects. The studies conducted to date on freshwater fish habitat in India habitat in India are confined to ecological studies of rivers, reservoir and flood plain lakes. There are two sources of environmental regu- Riverine habitat science has evolved from fishery lations governing fish habitats in India: i) interna- ecology and related limnological studies during the tional conventions to which India is a signatory; 1960s and 1970s to integration of fisheries, water and ii) judicial decisions of the Supreme court and quality and general ecology during the 1980s, tak- the High courts and other judicial bodies (Paul, ing into account the different riparian zones from 2000). The various regulations and obligations en- head water to confluences with the sea. Sampling shrined in these pronouncements are discussed here. has been attempted using standard methods (Sinha, India participates with many international agree- et al.,1998), covering fish fauna as well as fish- ments and programmes concerned with aspects eries. Studies conducted by CIFRI are now avail- of nature conservation and sustainable develop- able for the Gangetic System, Brahmaputra System, ment. These range from legal instruments such as Godavari System and Narmada river system. How- the Convention on Biological Diversity to scien- ever, the information has not been used as yet to tific programmes such as the UNESCO Man and address aquatic habitat management issues. the Biosphere Programme, a global programme of
  9. 9. Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 279 international scientific cooperation. India is also ac- information and international cooperation and cre- tive in: i) Convention on International Trade in En- ation of environmental awareness (I.9). dangered Species (CITES); ii) World Heritage Con- The provisions of international declarations are vention; iii) Convention on Biological Diversity; not reflected in municipal laws of India. Such dec- and, iv) Ramsar (Wetlands) Convention. larations presently act as guiding principles and The Constitution of India also enables the Cen- mechanisms for international interventions to fund tre and states to enact laws to carry out duties of eco-restoration programmes. None of the domes- preservation, reforestation and conservation of nat- tic laws for preventing habitat destruction are effec- ural resources [Article 33]. tive because of a lack of enforcement mechanisms. In India, there are three Acts (River Boards There are laws governing environmental protection, Act, 1956, Water Cess Act, 1977, and Water Act, but these have not been enforced by the implement- 1974) that have some form of regulatory control ing agencies. However, increasing public awareness on fish habitat management. According to the River and media coverage of the neglect may improve the Boards Act, 1956, River Boards have to regulate situation and there may be better transparency in and develop inter-state rivers and river valleys. River enforcement of environmental laws in future. Boards are responsible for: i) conservation, control Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 and optimum utilisation of water resources of inter- Linkages with ecosystem state rivers; ii) promotion and operation of schemes for irrigation, water supply, drainage, flood con- management trol, reforestation and navigation; and iii) control Fish habitat management in India is not the di- of soil erosion and prevention of pollution of wa- rect concern of any of the development agencies ters of inter-state rivers (I.7). The Water Cess Act involved in aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem manage- of 1977 (prevention and control of pollution) autho- ment. Apart from fish tanks and ponds and certain rises Water Boards and local authorities to levy and reservoirs in the country, fish habitats are not man- collect cess on water consumed by persons engaged aged for the purpose of fish or fisheries development in certain industries, to augment their resources. The or conservation. If there is any management inter- Water Act of 1974, as amended in 1979, defines vention that positively or negatively affect fish or fish water pollution, sewage effluents, sewer, industrial habitat, it is entirely incidental and can be attributed effluents, and streams. It was enacted to establish to management of these resources from a develop- Central and State Water Boards. The functions of mental focus. On the other hand, aquaculture has Central Boards are mainly advisory and supervi- been linked with other eco-restoration programmes sory, while the State Boards functions are more such as Ganga Action Plan under which aquaculture comprehensive. ponds have been used for stabilization of municipal The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is an sewage before releasing the effluents to the river. umbrella legislation that empowers the Government This has been considered as a resource regenera- of India (GoI) to take necessary measures to protect tion pathway for meeting the operation and main- and improve the quality of the environment (I.8). tenance cost of the sewage treatment plants (STPs). Beside these legislative measures, a National Con- The linkages with ecosystem management would in- servation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environ- clude the various developmental activities involving ment and Development, 1992; National River Policy, the aquatic and the terrestrial habitats beside cover- 1988; a Policy Statement on Abatement of Pollution, ing eco-restoration programmes such as pollution 1992; and National Environment Policy, 2006, have control and sustainable development. also been evolved. The National Environment Policy (NEP), 2006, is intended to be a guide to action in Aquatic ecosystem management regulatory reform, programmes and projects for en- vironmental conservation and review and enactment The Union Ministry of Water Resources is re- of legislation, by agencies of the central, state and sponsible for development, conservation and man- local governments. These objectives are sought to be agement of water as a national resource. These fulfilled through environmental impact assessment, functions are carried out through various central or- eco-regeneration, assistance to organisations imple- ganisations. The assessment of irrigation potential menting environmental and forestry research, edu- and its monitoring is conducted by the Central Wa- cation and training, dissemination of environmental ter Commission. Urban water supply and sewage
  10. 10. 280 Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 disposal is handled by the Ministry of Urban De- Large areas of reservoir waters (3.15 million ha) velopment while rural water supply is within the have been created during the post-Independence pe- purview of Ministry of Rural Development. Hydro- riod. These contribute 2.55% of the inland fish pro- electric and thermal power are the responsibility of duction in the country with the potential to further the Ministry of Power. enhance production by 160%. Management of fish- Pollution and environment control as well as eries and fish habitat in the post-impoundment phase river conservation comes under the purview of the for Indian reservoirs is, perhaps, better understood Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Min- than the impacts inflicted on the original habitats istry of Environment and Forests is primarily con- and their fisheries. cerned with the implementation of policies and pro- Floodplains lakes that act as reservoirs for the grammes relating to conservation of the country’s large volumes of water discharged by the rivers natural resources including lakes and rivers, its bio- at spate during the monsoon are highly productive diversity, forests and wildlife, ensuring the welfare from a fisheries point of view and promote human of its animals, and prevention and abatement of pol- settlement. These water bodies are subject to heavy lution. The Ministry also serves as the nodal agency siltation, resulting in reductions in the storage vol- for implementation of programmes based on inter- ume often with cascading effects of flooding newer Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 national and regional co-operation. The policies are areas and disturbing the breeding and recruitment of well supported by a set of legislative and regulatory the aquatic fauna. measures aimed at the reservation and protection of environment (I.9) To study the linkages with aquatic ecosystem National water quality monitoring management, it may be worthwhile to take a look at network the range of human activities affecting the ecosys- tem (Barg et al., 1998). India has developed the The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in largest irrigation system in the world with over 89 collaboration with concerned State Pollution Con- million hectares under irrigation. It also has a vast trol Boards (SPCBs) established a nationwide net- potential for hydro-power generation, estimated at work of water quality monitoring comprising 1019 84,000 MW, of which, 22,000 MW have so far been stations in 27 states and 6 union territories. The harnessed or is being harnessed.. However, the im- monitoring is done on monthly or quarterly basis in pact of river corridor engineering on fish habitat surface waters and semi-annually in case of ground has shown the disappearance of Puntius dubius, a water. The monitoring network covers 200 rivers, 60 gravel spawner from Stanley Reservoir in Tamil lakes, 5 tanks, 3 ponds, 3 creeks, 13 canals, 17 drains Nadu due to smothering of breeding grounds by fine and 321 wells. Among the 1019 stations, 592 are on silt (Singh, 2000); the disappearance of mahseers rivers, 65 on lakes, 17 on drains, 13 on canals, 5 on Tor khudree and Acrossocheilus hexagonolepis from tanks, 3 on creeks, 3 on ponds and 321 are ground- the Cauveri river system owing to habitat changes water stations (Fig.2) (I.10). consequent to construction of Stanley and Bhavanis- Presently, the inland water quality-monitoring agar Reservoirs (Singh, 2000); decline in the Hilsa network is operated under a three-tier pro- (Tenualosa ilisha) fishery in the upstream of Farakka gramme i.e. Global Environment Monitoring Sys- Barrage on the River Ganga (Bilgrani et al., 1979); tem (GEMS), Monitoring of Indian National the adverse impact on the anadromous migration Aquatic Resources System (MINARS) and Yamuna of hilsa in the Cauvery and Godavari rivers owing Action Plan (YAP). The water quality data are re- to the construction of small dams for the purpose ported in Water Quality Status Year Book (I.11). of regulating the flow to irrigation systems (Sundar The water quality monitoring results obtained Raj, 1942; Sreenivasan, 1976, 1977); and the dis- during 1995 to 2006 indicated that the organic and appearance of Puntius carnaticus from Trimoorthy bacterial contamination are continued to be critical and Amaravathy reservoirs (Sreenivasan, 1976). . in water bodies. This is mainly due to discharge of To prevent repetition of such occurrences, the Gov- domestic wastewater mostly in untreated form from ernment has constituted the National Commission the urban centres of the country. The municipal cor- on Integrated Water Resource Development and en- porations at large are not able to treat increasing trusted it with the job of integrated planning utiliz- load of municipal sewage flowing into water bod- ing the river continuum concept and eco-restoration ies without treatment. Secondly, the receiving water principles. bodies also do not have adequate water for dilution.
  11. 11. Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 281 Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 Figure 2. National water quality monitoring stations. Therefore, the oxygen demand and bacterial pollu- Conservation Act, 1980, has been able to partially tion is increasing day by day. arrest this trend. The water quality monitoring results were anal- As per, the National Bureau of Soil Science and ysed with respect to indicator of oxygen consuming Land Use Planning (NBSSLUP), out of a total land substances (bio-chemical demand) and indicator of area of the country of 328 million ha (mha), about pathogenic bacteria (total coliform and faecal co- 107.43 mha or 32.75% of the total geographical liform). The result of such analysis shows that area of the country is affected by various forms there is gradual degradation in water quality. and degree of land degradation. With the creation The number of observations having BOD and of the Department of Land Resources in 1999, a coliform density has increased during 1995 to new approach was developed with compact micro- 2006. watershed units as a basis for project planning, with involvement of the user groups and other stakehold- ers depending directly on the watershed. Involve- Terrestrial eco-system ment of NGOs for capacity building of grass-root management organisations have been considered as integral part of project component. The target is to treat 5 million The activities associated with management of ter- hectare of rain-fed watershed during the current five- restrial eco-system that impact aquatic habitat are: year plan period. This is probably the only ecosystem 1. management of nutrient overload; 2. reforestation management programme that has been established program; 3. watershed /wasteland development pro- and is progressing well with active involvement of gram; and 4. catchment area treatment under multi- funding agencies like National Bank for Agricul- purpose river valley projects. ture and Rural Development (NABARD), Kreditun- Eutrophication of water bodies can have sub- stalt fur Wiederaufbau (KFW) of Germany and with stantial impacts on aquatic flora and fauna includ- the support of voluntary organisations. Up to March ing fishes (WRI, 1998). Reduction in nutrient loss 2005, an area of 28.533 mha has been developed through better application of fertilizers, i.e. timely with an expenditure of Rs.14,5773.2 million. About application and accurate delivery, is an issue that 76.5 mha of degraded lands will remain to be treated has not been given due importance. The country in the 11th Five Year Plan. (I. 12). has a diverse and rich forest resource with a total Under two government sponsored soil and water forest cover of 67 million hectare. However the cur- conservation programmes, the soil conservation in rent annual withdrawal of forest wood is 235 million the catchments of river valley projects (RVP) and cubic meters compared to an estimated sustainable the integrated watershed management in the catch- capacity of 48 m.c.m. The enactment of The Forest ments of flood prone rivers (FPR), efforts are made
  12. 12. 282 Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 in the catchment areas to mitigate flood hazards, bathing ghats etc. (I.14) . The National River Con- and improve productivity. So far eight such catch- servation Plan was launched to cover 18 major rivers ment areas, covering 16.7 million hectares, have in 10 states of the country. Under this action plan, been included. Treatment of the catchments of such pollution abatement works are being undertaken in rivers, although not directed towards fisheries de- 46 towns in the country. About 1928 million litres velopment, is expected to help the cause of fisheries day –1 (mld) of sewage is targeted to be intercepted, development through habitat improvement due to re- diverted and treated. duction of silt loads, protection of breeding grounds, and improved discharge of rivers over time. Water The Ganga action plan (GAP) quantity is a very important indicator of fishery po- tential, and its variations are indicative of natural or Ganga runs its course of over 2500 km from human-induced changes in fishery potential. Varia- Gangotri in the Himalayas to Ganga Sagar in the tions in flows affect both the efficiency of fishing and Bay of Bengal through 29 cities with population over fishery biological productivity. Models have been 1,00,000 (Class-I cities), 23 cities with population developed to predict fishery yields one and two years between 50,000 and 1,00,000 (Class-II cities), and ahead based on changes in water availability (I.13) . Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 about 48 towns. It is a river with which the people of India are attached spiritually and emotionally. De- Eco-restoration program partment of Environment, in December 1984, pre- pared an action plan for immediate reduction of pol- The key eco-restoration programs involve: (i) lution load on the river Ganga. The Cabinet approved river action plans; (ii) industrial pollution control the GAP (Ganga Action Plan) in April 1985 as a programs; and, (iii) wetland management program. 100% centrally sponsored scheme. The GAP, launched in 1985, with the objective of River action plan bringing the water quality of river Ganga and its trib- utaries to bathing levels, was not able to achieve its The Central Ganga Authority established in 1985 objectives, despite a total expenditure of Rs 901.71 launched the Ganga Action Plan. With the approval crore over a period of 15 years. There were short- of the National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) in falls in allocation of resources. Of the total domestic July 1995, the Central Ganga Authority has been re- sewage of 5044 mld, in 110 towns selected for pol- designated as the National River Conservation Di- lution abatement along the banks of river Ganga and rectorate (NRCD). The National River Conservation its tributaries, the GAP addressed itself to process Directorate (NRCD) functions under the Ministry only 2794 mld. The reported achievement of the par- of Environment and Forests is in-charge of imple- ticipating states was 1095.69 mld, i.e. only 39% of menting the River Action Plans. The River Action truncated target. The assets created in the Scheme Plans were undertaken based on surveys conducted suffered impairment and closure because of techni- by the CPCB, which identified 27 grossly polluted cal design flaws, inter se mismatch of the schemes stretches of major rivers of the country. The objec- and their components, problems in land acquisition, tive is to improve the water quality of the major contract mismanagement, lack of adequate mainte- rivers, which are the major freshwater sources in nance, and in general because of lackadaisical atti- the country, through the implementation of pollu- tude of the States and their implementing agencies. tion abatement schemes. The important works be- Technologies adopted by the NRCD for construc- ing taken up under the National River Action Plan tion of STPs were often questionable inasmuch as include: a) Interception and Diversion of works to they could not adequately address the problem of capture the raw sewage flowing into the river through reducing bacterial load in the river to the desired open drains and divert them for treatment; b) Sewage level. The NRCD has abandoned the crucial activity Treatment Plants (STP) for treating the diverted of monitoring the water quality monitoring on river sewage; c) Low Cost Sanitation works to prevent Ganga since September 1999, reportedly for want open defecation on river banks; d) Electric Crema- of funds, and deprived itself of a key instrument of toria and Improved Wood crematoria to conserve overall performance monitoring of the GAP (I.15). the use of wood and help in ensuring proper crema- The problem is further compounded by the pro- tion of bodies brought to the burning ghats; e) River cess of global warming, leading to fast disappear- Front Development works such as improvement of ance of world’s best known ice masses, including
  13. 13. Ghosh and Ponniah / Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11 (2008) 272–288 283 Downloaded By: [] At: 20:52 7 September 2008 Figure 3. Current status of Yamuna river water quality. India’s Gangotri glacier. Studies conducted by Delhi were covered. Pollution arising from the do- WWF, available exclusively with CNN-IBN reveal mestic sector was considered to be of major concern that the Gangotri glacier is receding at an alarming and given the highest priority. The river water in up- average rate of 23 m yr−1 , with the snout position per segment is relatively unpolluted. Downstream of the glacier now 19 km upstream from Gangotri, of Tajewala, domestic and industrial wastewaters at Gaumukh. With the 27 km long Gangotri glacier from urban and rural areas are discharged into the shrinking, there is now less water downstream to di- river. The Delhi Reach, located between two bar- lute the chemical wastes of over a 100 industries that rages, has practically no perennial flow of its own pour into the river. and receives partly treated and untreated wastewa- ter effluents from Delhi. Therefore, this stretch is the The Yamuna action plan (YAP) most polluted segment. The BOD load is observed to be 27 mg l−1 (almost similar to treated wastewater) Yamuna is the largest tributary of river Ganga at Nizamuddin Bridge in Delhi (Figure 3). Despite and the main source of fresh water in Northern India. the serious efforts under YAP-I, the pollution of Ya- Originating from Himalayas, its total length is 1,376 muna River has worsened and it is affecting the life km covering a catchment area of 366,220 km2 . Ya- of the residents alongside the river. The challenge is muna water, downstream of Okhla barrage up to formidable. Pollutants contained in domestic, indus- the confluence with the Chambal River, is eutrophi- trial and agricultural waste largely contribute to the cated and BOD loads at Mazawali and Agra down- water pollution in Yamuna River with the pollutant stream is above 30 mg l−1 . This prohibits the usage ratio of 20%, 17% and 63%, respectively. of the river Yamuna as a source of water for potable Based on the success and lessons learned from water scheme in Agra and the water of the river YAP I, JBIC signed a new Loan Agreement in March Ganga needs to be transported to Agra by a 138 2003 for the ongoing YAP Project as a continu- km pipeline. To tackle pollution in river Yamuna, ation and expansion of the earlier program. The YAP-I was launched by the Ministry of Environ- Loan Agreement provided financial assistance of ment and Forests (and implemented by NRCD) in 13.33 billion yen. The YAP-II project commenced 1993 with Japan’s ODA loan amounting to 17.77 in December 2004 and is expected to be com- billion yen. Under YAP-I, 15 Class-I towns includ- pleted by November 2009. Delhi, being a major pol- ing six in Haryana, eight in Uttar Pradesh State and luter, receives a proportionally higher share of fund