SHILLONG, March 5 � Meghalaya today launched the State Aquaculture Mission with great fanfare to develop fishery as an alternate industry, amidst growing concern about rivers in the State turning acidic due to years of unscientific mining.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma launched the project at a function at Polo Ground here and said it would target one lakh farmers during the next five years. The basic objective of the project is to expand the area covered under fisheries and increase productivity.
Other aspects of the mission are to conserve indigenous fish varieties, train farmers in modern technological know-how and developing other ancillary industries related to Pisciculture.
�We need the help and support of everyone in the State to transform this aquaculture mission into a people�s movement,� he told the gathering of farmers who came from all corners of the State.
However, there is great concern about the quality of the water deteriorating in many of the rivers of the State due to years of unscientific mining. Aquatic life have vanished in these rivers, especially in Jaintia Hills where coal and limestone mining is a major industry.
Some of the rivers like Lukha in the Khliehriat sub-division have turned blue due to high acidic content and aquatic life have perished. Several other rivers in the district like the Myntdu and Lunar have a low Ph value and are acidic in nature.
In fact, the acidic nature of the water has corroded costly equipment in the Kopili Hydel project and there is apprehension about the recently inaugurated Leskha-Myntdu project facing similar consequences.
�The rivers have been poisoned and this is affecting fishing areas. We must protect these rivers and the ecosystem,� Deputy Chief Minister Rowell Lyngdoh said at the function.
Chairman of State Planning Board and former Chief Minister Donkupar Roy also expressed concern saying the Ranikor and Umgnot rivers have all been contaminated by the industries and people. �We need to protect our rivers from people and industries,� he told the gathering.
Sangma said alternative source of income like fish farming would ease the pressure from mining non-renewable minerals and would help in conservation programmes.
He said the government was providing 60 per cent grant to farmers who are willing to take up pisciculture. The government would assist the farmers in getting credit and loan facilities for another 30 per cent from different agencies. The rest would be borne by the beneficiaries themselves, Sangma said about the project.