Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) Fisheries Department is perhaps the only government department that has developed the capacity for self-criticism to the extent that it posts articles against itself on its official website.
On its website, the department clearly points out its failure to regulate netting practices in the province’s major rivers, resulting in the extinction of several indigenous fish species.
According to an article posted on the site: “The main junction of the River Indus and River Kabul is heavily fished by people who use electricity produced by generators to catch fish. This practice goes on day and night while the river banks are also disturbed by dynamite. All these practices have been noted by the department but no action has been taken to stop them.” Prime locations for healthy fishing such as the Tarbela and Tanda dams are given out on contract to private parties who do overfishing and systematically reduce the Mahseer population.
Interestingly, in the achievements section the website has pointed out that the Department of Fisheries ‘NWFP’ has ‘focused on encouraging tourism in the province through development of sports fisheries’. The name of the province was changed from North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) back in 2010.
The department’s confession aside, a growing number of issues are affecting fishing in K-P. Among concerns of illegal fishing practices, there are also problems of pollution. For instance, the Mardan Sugar Mills dumps industrial waste into the River Kalpani, killing fish which migrate upstream during the breeding season.
The department always complains about a lack of resources, but a visit to the Carp Recreation Pond reveals it is more a problem of efficiency. The department has not been able to maintain a small fish pond on its own premises, where public access is not easy.
The department’s director, Sharifullah Khan, told The Express Tribune the rivers came under the control of the district government following the devolution of powers from the centre. “I am trying my level best to provide staff that will monitor illegal fishing, especially in Charsadda,” he said. Khan further claimed he had not checked the department’s website as he had only taken charge six months ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2013.