LAHORE: Pakistan’s worst-ever floods have been a blessing in disguise for fisheries, as they are reviving hundreds of drying ponds and lakes and boosting flagging fish stocks.
The Fisheries Department controls some 300 water bodies across Punjab that fish farmers can lease for three years at auction. The number of water bodies leased has risen by 30 per cent, and farmers are paying more for them, Fisheries Department Director General Muhammad Ashraf told The Express Tribune.
“Many of these water bodies were lacking water and some fish species were endangered. The flood water has proved a life-saving tonic for these species and is likely to enhance fish production,” he said.
Ashraf said that fish farmers from flood-hit areas including Muzzaffargarh, Rajanpur and Kot Addu had participated in an auction of water bodies at the department’s directorate in Lahore on August 17.
“We were surprised. These areas have been cut off from the rest of the country but even then the fish farmers came to the auction,” he said. “Their bids were about 30 per cent higher than the reserve rates. It is because they know that this year they will get more water and fish production, and thus bigger profits,” he said.
The lease for Qadarabad water reservoir recently expired and was put up for auction again. The department had received Rs1.6 million for the previous auction and expected about Rs6 million this time, he said, but it sold for Rs18.3 million.
The department has approved the auctions of 70 water bodies, but is delaying auctions for the rest at the request of farmers unable to attend because of the floods. Ashraf said that half the water bodies controlled by the department were in flood-hit areas and would benefit from the extra water. The flood would also form new ponds.
He said that the timing of the flood – in the middle of breeding season – had been critical. “It would have been really bad for fisheries had the flood come in September,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2010.
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