Officials of Fisheries Department especially of district Anantnag are always found absent from their duties
River Jhelum is a tributary of Indus River. Jhelum has an old history recorded in the literary source of Rigveda, Tarikh-e-Hassan and in Nilamata Purna. The Rigveda has mentioned Jhelum as one of the major rivers and it is called ‘Vitasta’. River Jhelum is known by a different name in Kashmir also that is ‘Vyeth’. Verinag water spring is considered as the chief source of river Jhelum. The spring was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1620 A.D. River Jhelum is joined by many famous tributaries such as Lidder, Neelum and Sind rivers. Jhelum flows from south to central and finally to north Kashmir before it enters Pakistan.
Jhelum provides livelihood to thousands of people in Kashmir. Many fishing communities earn their livelihood by catching different types of fishes locally known as Sattar, Chhurru, Khont, Chush, Ale and Punjabe Gad. These fishes are well known for health benefits and are widely consumed across Kashmir but gradually the quantity of fishes have decreased due to the pollution, poaching, improper use of resources, illiteracy and poverty among people and negligence of government. The production of these fishes has decreased which affected the fishing communities and resulted in the shifting of their profession.
River Jhelum is currently facing tremendous problems due to dumping of materials like plastic, expired medicines, glass, polythene bags, surgical items, metals, dead bodies of animals and cloth materials which has degraded the quality of water and damaged the aquatic life. Tons of biodegradable and non-biodegradable substances from different locations are dumped every day that reduces the number of fishes, flow and the quality of water which needs the conservation quickly.
As a resident and an angler of Khanabal area of Anantnag, I always see the dead bodies of animals, the materials such as plastic, and polythene etc. floating on the surface of river Jhelum that really disturbs the peace of my mind. In morning and evening hours, most of the residents living by the Jhelum banks throw heaps of various types of garbage into it. The throwing of these garbage bags from the banks or top of the bridges makes a sound like that of a bomb blast. It ache my heart when I hear such sounds of garbage bags being thrown into it. Throwing garbage in it has not only ruined beauty of the river but there is also an existential threat to river Jhelum as well.
The poverty, illiteracy, and non-awareness among the people have added to the woes of Jhelum. Many chemicals used as fertilizers in agriculture as well as waste from livestock and humans has contaminated and damaged the aquatic life of this beautiful river. Our ancestors used to tell us that only four or five decades ago the water of river Jhelum was used for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing etc. but with the passage of time and rapid urbanizationon the both sides of river banks has impacted and resulted in the contamination of water. The assurance of state governments to develop river Jhelum into a water transport system was also a fake promise. Jhelum has an enormous potential of water transport as it could be used to provide services across the Kashmir valley. It has also the potential to carry heavy and bulky goods. The failed policies of respective state governments are responsible for the mess Jhelum presently is in. The officials of Fisheries Departments of Kashmir especially of district Anantnag are always found absent from their duties. It gives an impression that the said department does not care about the aquatic life. The poverty and illiteracy among locals and fishing communities have impacted the quality of water and depleted the fishing resources as well.
Government should introduce strict policies and punish those who dump their garbage in the river Jhelum; the Awareness programs and campaigns should be launched by involving local communities and aware them about the current situation; people should use the social networking to aware the masses; dustbins should be setup around the river so that people could use them instead of throwing the garbage in river; government should construct high embankments on both sides of river. Building such walls helps in preventing floods; and government should start to work on water transport system as it will generate employment and will reduce the pollution and traffic jam.
All such steps cannot be achieved within days. The government and people should go hand-in-hand to cooperate with each other and to save this beautiful river from the current crisis.