The water that gushed down River Swat in 2010 also took with it 16 trout and 18 carp farms, breaking the backbone of what little was left of fisheries in the region.
“Our business fell to nothing during the militancy; the militants used to take trout fish free of charge from us. They would often loot our farms in the night. Because of the militancy, tourists also stopped coming, so the business was dead,” said Ikram Khan, a trout farm owner.
“Later, the floods completely washed away our farms, leaving us to the mercy of God,” he added.
Swat’s trout, known to be of high quality and taste, attracted tourists in large droves before the floods.
Apart from trout, Swati carp is also popular among tourists for its delicious taste. “We regularly visit Swat valley, not only for its dazzling beauty, but also to enjoy its fresh fish. Sitting on the bank of the Swat River, eating trout fish would double the fun of our visit,” Jehan Sayed, a regular tourist from Mardan, told The Express Tribune.
Nazir Ahmad, a hotel owner in Kalam said the high demand for trout led him to develop his own farm. “My business flourished, but the floods damaged my hotel and completely wiped out my farm,” he said, adding that the government had not offered him any help or support.
Jansher Khan, District Officer of fishery department, said the militancy put on hold the management, feeding and marketing of fisheries in Swat. Then the floods came, and devastated the entire network of fisheries in the region.
“The district fisheries department submitted thorough reports to the federal and provincial governments, [Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA)], army and NGOs,” he said.
He added that PaRRSA and USAID will assist them in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of hatcheries and farms, and 22 trout ponds and hatcheries have already been rehabilitated and reconstructed. “We are giving construction material, imported fish food, fish eggs and other equipment to the fish farming community,” Khan said.
Malakand Aquaculture Advisory Group (MAAG) has also been established by the K-P government to coordinate, guide and facilitate recovery efforts, he said, adding that they were arranging capacity building programmes for fish farmers with help from USAID, ICCO through SRSP, and PaRRSA.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.