By Vikram Jit Singh
CHANDIGARH: There is much to cheer as monsoon torrents gush down from Sukhna lake's catchment area and veil the 'silt pockmarks' exposed by falling water levels. But the monsoon drains feeding into the lake from the Kaimbawala-Saketri axis have turned into a death trap for breeding fish as the poaching mafia from nearby Bapu Dham colony and other slum settlements is using gillnets and even nets that stretch across the narrow drains. Other poachers are battering fish with wooden staves as they struggle at shallow points of the drains.
UT forest and wildlife department's lone guard, Paramjit, at the Sukhna Reserve Forest is waging a hard battle to protect the drains that reach the lake near the Nature Interpretation Centre at the regulatory-end. The agile poachers have laid siege to the entire stretch of the drains. Some use multiple hooks and 'atta' baits tied to empty plastic bottles anchored on the drains' banks. Fishing at the lake is strictly limited to those issued permits and deploying fishing rods. Nets are strictly banned.The problem is that when the lone guard chases the poachers the latter show nimble feet, running to safety across the fields and fallow lands of Saketri area. They often leave behind dead fish and fishing gear in the escape bid. On Friday, a sackful of big fish (about 1-2 kg) and small fish were seized from seven poachers. Despite a chase across the muddy fields, the seven poachers could not be nabbed. They can be counted upon to return and strike again as they are habituated offenders.
The fish of all sizes, including the minnows that form the staple diet of wetland and migratory birds, are being indiscriminately netted by this mafia. Fish of all sizes and species can be seen going from the lake and up the strong drain current. Fish can also be seen going around in circles. "The surging current in the drain triggers breeding season for fish. They tend to swim against the current as it triggers their muscles, which press against the belly and eggs are released. Fish can also be seen going around in circles as it is a part of breeding behaviour," Prof M S Johal, a technical expert on fisheries at Panjab University, told TOI on Saturday.
UT chief wildlife warden Santosh Kumar told TOI on Saturday: "I will reinforce the strength of guards at the Sukhna reserve forest so that this poaching menace is brought under control."