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Effects of Dams & Weirs on Fisheries

Effects of Dams & Weirs on Fisheries



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Published by Dr. Subhendu Datta
The topic describes how the construction of dams, weirs and barrages are affecting fish and fisheries. Fish migration, fish pass, ladders and impact of farakka barrage on hisla fisheries are also covered.
The topic describes how the construction of dams, weirs and barrages are affecting fish and fisheries. Fish migration, fish pass, ladders and impact of farakka barrage on hisla fisheries are also covered.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Dr. Subhendu Datta on Nov 14, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Effect of Dams and Weirs on Fisheries 
In principle, dams, weirs, barrages and anicuts are created by constructing stonemasonry or concrete bunds across a stream. All the above stated structures raise the water levelfor facilitating diversion of flow.Dams usually comprise a massive concrete wall built across a stream at strategic, usually rockysites, leading to the formation of vast reservoirs upstream of the bunds, often stretching intohundreds of miles.A weir; as distinguished from a dam, connotes the discharge of water over its crest or throughwide openings.The term barrage is of French origin and is often applied to weirs provided with sluice openings.An anicut is a word of Tamil origin meaning ‘dam building’. It is usually a low barrage builtprimarily for irrigation purposes.In U.S.A., any barrier placed across a river is called a dam, the term weir beingspecifically used to denote the movable wickets or gates forming part of the dam and employedfor regulating the flow and the level of water.Damming of streams led to the formation of impoundments. Dams are constructed formultiple purposes
. water storage for irrigation, for industrial and domestic uses, flood control,hydroelectric power generation, for navigation, recreation, development of fisheries and sportsfishing.Petts (1989) identified four phases in the era of modern river modification:Phase-I (from 1750 – 1900): During this time lot of regulation, schemes were implemented inmany of the large European rivers for navigation, flood control and utilization of flood plainland.Phase-II (from 1900 – 1940): This is the period of development of technology to built great damsspecially in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia.Phase-III (from 1950 – 1980): This is the time of maximum activity in dam building worldwide.The activity reached such a height that in late 1970s dams over 15 m in height were beingcompleted at the rate of over 700 per year world-wide.Phase-IV (from 1980 till date i.e. up to 1989 when author had reported): The pace of dambuilding has slowed down to about 500 per year worldwide. It is estimated that by the year 2000,over 60% of the total stream flow in the world will be regulated.
Dr. Subhendu Datta
Sr. ScientistCIFE, Kolkata Centre, India
Fish and their habitat are considerably affected by river valley projects. Even though lotic sectorof the reservoir maintains a fluviatile ecosystem, the lentic zone and the bays sustain a lucstrineecosystem. The reservoir develops certain features of its own. The dam as a whole alters the riverhydrology both up and down streams, making a very new environment. The quality of impounded water varies from watershed to watershed depending on soil quality, humaninterferences and climate conditions. To a large extend it also depends on the morphometriccharacters of the reservoirs like shape of the basin, area, mean depth and the regularity of theshoreline. There are positive as well as negative impacts of reservoirs on fisheries.
Positive factors effecting the fish production due to impoundment:
(1). Increased primary productivity: In running water plankton population is generally very low,due to turbidity restricting population of sunlight. Clarity of water is generally very high in mostof reservoirs as reservoirs act as silt traps and hence the suspended matter settles down at thebottom. During the filling period of reservoirs (initial 2–3 years), there is usually an initial spurtof plankton and benthic communities due to the increased availability of nutrients released fromthe decay of submerged vegetation. This trophic burst is also because of the saprogenic (like tofeed on dead organic matter) lacustrine species filling the vacant niches created by thedisappearances of saprophobic (don’t like to feed on dead organic matter) riverine animals. Thisled to increased primary production. The reservoir yielded very high production after dammingthe rivers. In most of the Indian reservoirs, from first year of impounding there appeared aphytoplankton bloom which persisted in many reservoirs like Stanley reservoir, Bhavanisagar,Amaravatty etc of southern India.2. Reservoirs act as sanctuary: There are many instances where reservoirs acted as sanctuaries,example for this are
 Barilius bola
in Tiaiya (on river Damodar),
Osteobrama vigorsii
in Nagarjuna sagar (on river Krishna)
Tor khudree
in Sivagisagar (on river Krishna)etc. The inundated tree tank can act as substrates for thick periphyton (organisms that live byattaching to the stem and leaves of freshwater plants) growth which promotes the production of fishes like
 Labeo rohita
which feed on periphyton.3. Availability of food is increased: Water level fluctuations in reservoirs benefit the fishery,when water inundates the land area along with vegetations. Abundant food is made available forthe fishes due to the decomposition of the vegetation, which releases nutrients to the water forthe growth of biotic communities.
Negative role of impoundments due to the construction of dam on fisheries:
The problems, which may arise for fishery due to the construction of a dam, are associated withthe unfavourable physico-chemical conditions of water, unavailable food and feeding areas,barrier for fish migration, damage of spawning grounds, excessive growth of aquatic weeds andchange in species composition of fish.(1). Unfavourable physico-chemical conditions: The Physico-chemical conditions of a reservoirdepends on the prevailing climatic conditions including air temperature, wind velocity, rain falletc. Consequent to the dam construction and reservoir formation, substantial morpho-ecologicalchanges occur in the original river both above and below the dam site. These include conversionof running water into a water body of slow discharge characteristics and radical transformationof long established ties and inter-relationship between organisms. During summer, in the staticcondition of the reservoirs, surface water gets heated up and the bottom layer remains unaffected.
 3When the bottom is warmed up, decomposition of organic matter is accelerated and the resultswill be release of nutrients. The thermo cline does not allow a mixing up of rich nutrients at thebottom layer, which was locked up at the bottom. In lotic condition, mixing up of different layersof water permits equal distribution of nutrients. The amount of rain determines the rate of inflowinto the reservoir hence plays a vital role in bringing in the replenishment and nutrientenrichment. In reservoirs, inflow rate is affected as the rainfall in the catchment’s of the riverssituated hundreds of kilometer away from the reservoirs.The productivity of reservoir is determined by its depth also. In shallow reservoirs, thegreater part of their water is the euphotic zone facilitating greater and circulation of heat andnutrients and hence higher productivity. In deep reservoirs, the organic matters accumulate in thebottom and become unavailable at the photosynthetic zone. The spillway discharge removes theoxygenated clear water at the top layer leaving the oxygen-deficient, turbid bottom water. Thedeep dwawdown also removes the decomposing materials including nutrients.The oligotrophic tendencies shown by some of the reservoirs are mainly due to the poornutrient status and other chemical deficiencies. In most cases, poor water quality is a directreflection of the catchment soil. All reservoirs in Kerala show low primary productivity and poorplankton abundance. The reservoirs in Kerala also recorded low specific conductivity (<50
mhos) and total alkalinity (<50 mg/l).(2). Unavailable food: Damming of a river denies the free flow of silt which causes its depositionto the bottom which is unfavourable for benthic invertebrates and this reduces the production of benthivorous fishes. Sudden changes in water level, inflow and outflow directly affect thebenthic communities
plankton, benthos and periphyton pulses which coincide with the leastlevel fluctuations. Storage and release of water from dams are governed by its primary objectiveslike power generation, irrigation, flood control etc. The spillway discharge dislodges the standingcrop of plankton. Lack of plankton affects the planktivorous fish production.(3). Damage of spawning grounds: The rapid water level fluctuations damage the spawninggrounds of many fishes. Silt deposition on fish eggs increases egg mortality and thus decreasespawning success. Aquatic littoral vegetation often provides the very substrate within which oron which eggs are laid and may protect eggs from wave action and erosion. Heavy siltationdestroy the nesting materials i.e. aquatic vegetation, therefore, these reservoirs do not providegood spawning habitat for species dependent upon vegetation. Draw down also minimizes theamount of vegetation available for spawning, especially in turbid reservoirs. Many fishes have atendency to swim against the current and spawn. In reservoir condition, such facility is availableonly at upper reaches of the reservoir where to some extent lotic condition exists. The fishes,which cannot adapt themselves to the changed lacustrine condition, will perish.(4). Excessive growth of floating vegetation: The lentic condition of reservoirs encourages thegrowth of micro as well as macro vegetations. However, Indian reservoirs are almost free fromsuch problems. In African reservoirs, Kariba and Volta, floating aquatic weeds especially waterhyacinth even choked the water. This condition prevents the light penetration, loss of nutrientsand loss of water due to high rates evaporation. This affects the growth of other bioticcommunities in the reservoir. Excessive growth of Salvinia (30% of lake area) in lake Karibaleads to the low (6 12 kg/ha/year) fish production.(5). Change of fish fauna: Riverine fish fauna is subjected to a series of habitat changes such aswater current, turbidity levels, fishing pressure, loss of breeding grounds and changes in fishfood organisms due to lake formation. The species, which could withstand these changes onlysurvive others perish. In many reservoirs transplantation of fish from other basins take advantageof the vacant niches and the introduction of exotic species led to the changes in species spectrum.Many of the indigenous fish fauna, which were relished by the natives, gave way to theintroduced species.

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