Faced with lack of fish in rivers, fishermen looking elsewhere for livelihood | The Daily Star
10:01 PM, May 15, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:09 PM, May 15, 2021

Faced with lack of fish in rivers, fishermen looking elsewhere for livelihood

In the village of Das Para, some fishermen are shunning their nets and the low murmur of the river, which had been the source of their livelihood for generations, for the electric hum of "easy bikes".

Others are looking at alternative professions to make ends meet as the number of fish on offer dwindle.

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Mohan Chandra Das (34), Pulak Das (43), Ramoni Das (45) and a few other fishermen from the area are now earning their livelihood by driving the battery-runbikes. 

Sadhan Chandra Das (48), Nirmal Chandra Das (30), Subhash Chandra Das (50) and a few others are preparing to say goodbye to their nets and join other professions to earn a living. 

Many other fishermen are on the verge of quitting their ancestral occupation at Daspara, a village on the banks of Brahmaputra River in Chilmari upazila of Kurigram.

Nabin Chandra Das (58), a fisherman from Jorgach Daspara, told The Daily Star that there is not much fish in the rivers, so there are no fish in the nets.

They have become frustrated. Family expenses are not met properly through fishing and so, many are forced to leave their ancestral profession and join other professions to earn an income.

"Many more are preparing to leave this profession.Our misery has increased because there are no fish in the rivers. We have to spend half the day starving," he said.

"I have been earning money by driving battery-run easybike for the last two months. I used to run my family by fishing in the rivers with nets. We have a close relationship with the net but the family cannot live on the net anymore. I am doing fine now," said Apan Chandra Das (38) of Ramna Daspara area in Chilmari upazila.

Jatin Chandra Das (77) of the same area told The Daily Star that there are about 200 fishing villages on the banks of 26 rivers including Brahmaputra, Teesta, Dharla, Dudhkumar and Jinjiram in Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts. 

"There are about 3,000 families in these villages. Once, there was a lot of fish in the rivers, the canals were open so there was a huge opportunity for employment for the fishermen's families. Now the influential people cultivate fish by leasing the canals and 'beels' and there is not much fish in the rivers, so the fishing families have fallen upon hard times," he said.

"All four of my sons used to fish with nets. Now two of them are doing other jobs. The two other sons say they too are willing to give up. I have urged them not to give up; it is our heritage, " Jatin added. 

Nagendra Das (48) of Kalmati Daspara area in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila said he wants to make a living from fishing but his family cannot survive in that manner because there are no fish in the rivers. 

As rivers are dried up most of the time in the year, fish do not breed and therefore the expected number of fish is not available.

"I am ready to give up fishing and join another profession," he said. 

Lalmonirhat District Fisheries Officer ASM Rasel told The Daily Star the number of professional fishermen is declining day by day. 

"The fishermen catch fish fry with current nets. They are being made aware not to use current nets. As much as there is an incentive from the government, it is distributed among them," said Rasel.

"Fishermen cannot even lease government canals and beels because of influential people," he added. 

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