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Dr. Subhendu Datta Sr. Scientist, ICAR
Chaurs are natural tectonic depressions and Mauns (or Mans) are oxbow lakes formed by the shifting of river course which remains waterlogged for best part of year. Chaurs and mauns are distributed on the north Gangetic plain from the region of Bagaha in the west to the Bangladesh border, Bihar and West Bengal. The wetlands of this extensive region of northern India are dependent upon six major tributaries of the Ganges flowing from the central Himalaya to the plains between the Nepalese border and the Ganges itself. From the Great Gandak river in the west to the Mahananda river in the east, the northern part of the Ganges plain is studded with innumerable, small, freshwater lakes or “Chaurs” with a profuse growth of aquatic vegetation. The vast majority are oxbow lakes or Manus marking the historical courses of the Baya Nadi, Burhi Gandak, Sapt Kosi, and Mahananda rivers. Most are between 100 ha and 200 ha in area, but some are much larger and a few exceed 1000 ha. The chaurs are inundated by overflow from the rivers and local monsoon run-off. Typically, they have a maximum depth of 1.5 in during the monsoon and dry out completely during summer (March-June). The pH values range from 7.6 to 7.9. Chaurs are particularly abundant in the southeast of the region, around Khabartal (site 64), and there are more than 14,000 ha of these wetlands in Darbhanga district alone. Some of the main chaurs in the Khabartal region are Nagri Jheel, Bikrampur Chaur, Rajakpur Chaur, Chalki Chaur, the Chakka/Matihari chaurs, the Mahpur/Brahampur chaurs, Rajor Chaur, the Dasin/Turki chaurs, the Korai Sajanpur Chaurs, and the Dunhi Chaurs. 20-25% geographical areas of North Bihar fall in the category of Chaurs and Mauns.
Source: Fisheries Development in Bihar: An Action Plan, 29 Dec 2007, ICAR Despite abundant aquatic resources in terms of about 3,200 km of rivers, 100,000 hectares chaurs and floodplain wetlands, 9,000 hectares of oxbow lakes or mauns, 7,200 hectares of reservoirs and 69,000 hectares of ponds and tanks, fish supply is short of demand in the State of Bihar. Development of the resources with the adoption of the available technologies can bridge this gap, by at least doubling the production from the present level of 2.6 lakh tonnes. Aquaculture and culture-based fisheries are the options for enhancing the productivity of more amenable waters such as ponds and the oxbow lakes (mauns) with immediate results. An analysis of the constraints brings out the inadequate availability of quality fish seed in terms of carp fingerlings as a major problem. The present fish production of 350 million fry would need to be tripled to cater to the seed requirements for doubling the fish production. Further, the weed infestations and silt accumulation in these waters, the latter due to frequent floods in northern Bihar, are the other concerns. Feed requirement in aquaculture has never been addressed in the past and would become an important ingredient for enhancing fish production from culture practices. Both the water resources
and the high first sale price of fish in the State allow for increasing productivity in these waters, without reducing the profit margins. It takes into account the resources available in different Districts and the mapping that has been done for water bodies above 0.5 hectare in each and every Block of the State. Major interventions proposed are clearance of weed infestations, renovation of ponds and desilting (with linkages with NREGP), establishment of brood banks and hatcheries to enhance seed production three-fold, provision of seed rearing space with buy-back arrangements, long-term leasing of water bodies, ensuring proper stocking of ponds with 6,000 fingerlings/ha and mauns at 2,000/ha, provision of post-harvest fish handling and marketing facilities. Mauns Mauns or Ox-bow lakes, which are the cutoff portions of river meanders, form an important fishery resource in Bihar, with annual fish yield potentials ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 kg/ha. The distribution of mauns in different Districts of the State proposed for development is given in Table 3. Apart from directly providing fishing grounds, the oxbow lakes of Bihar also facilitate auto-stocking of riverine fish due to their connectivity to rivers. However, currently these water bodies are in various stages of eutrophication, on account of natural and anthropogenic factors, as evidenced by the presence of thick stands of macrophytes (3 to 20 kg/m2). Most of the lakes also remain unconnected to rivers as the connecting channels have become non-functional. Construction/repair of inlet and outlet channels would be essential to restore connectivity of oxbow lakes with rivers. The essential pre-requisites to develop this resource are restoration of the ecosystem by clearing weeds, restoring riverine connectivity wherever needed and feasible, adopting fisheries enhancement strategies and tools to enhance fish yields. By weed clearance, stocking and adoption of cage/pen culture technologies, the fish yields from Oxbow lakes of Bihar can be increased up to 1,000 kg/ha, from the current level of 160 kg/ha. In the first phase, 5,000 hectares of ox-bow lakes may be developed with weed clearance/desiltation and restoration of inlets and outlets, stocking with quality fish seed and cage/pen culture in selected areas of the mauns. It is suggested that the weed clearance and desiltation work is undertaken under the ongoing schemes such as the NREGP or special provisions are made for the purpose. The suggested rate of stocking fish seed in these waters is 2,000 advanced fingerlings (5" to 6") per hectare, with a species mix of catla, rohu, mrigal and grass carp of 30%, 30%, 30% and 10% respectively, that could be varied depending on market preferences and seed availability. Considering that 10 million advanced fingerlings will be required to stock 5,000 ha of oxbow lakes, it is suggested that they are produced in situ in pens or cages set up in the lakes. The number and size of the cage/pen units would vary depending upon the quantity of stocking materials to be raised to stock the oxbow lakes concerned or a cluster of them in the vicinity. The seed rearing in pens involves construction of pen structure and its installation, de-weeding and liming of pen area, stocking of fish fry @ 10 lakh per ha and maintenance for a grow-out period of 60 days to attain the desired size of stocking materials. The proposed model for a unit area of 100 ha of mauns and the seed production units in terms of pens for the purpose was given in the plan.Each pen would yield 50,000 fingerlings. 200,000 fingerlings from a set of four pens in once cycle are adequate for
stocking 100 ha of mauns. As the life of pen enclosure is three years, there would be no costs on the pens during the second and the third year. Mauns, being common property resources, are better managed under a comanagement regime through participation of all stakeholders including the fishers, community organizations and the Government agencies. Participation of the Government will ensure compliance with national policies and norms of environmental sustainability and equity. Right to erect pen enclosures can be leased out to individuals, if found necessary and feasible. However, outright auctioning of lakes to individuals needs to be discouraged in order to ensure that the fruits of higher productivity achieved through development initiatives are shared equitably by the fishers, who constitute the main stakeholders. As poor governance and institutional arrangements have been identified as one of the major retardants to oxbow lake productivity, this needs to be addressed on a priority basis.
Source: Draft Fisheries Policy, 2008, Directorate of Fisheries, Department of Animal and Fish Resources, Government of Bihar Development of Fisheries in Ox-Bow Lakes An estimated 9930 ha ha of water spread area varying in size from 4 to 400 ha in the form of ox-bow lakes or mauns offers immense scope for scientific culture based fisheries development supporting a sizeable number of fishers and small and marginal farming households. These lakes are the discarded loops of meandering rivers, mainly in the Gandak basin, which gets disconnected and connected with the main rivers during floods or rainy season thereby drawing water. At present mainly capture fisheries is practiced, and only about 2700 ha area i.e. less than one third of available area has been brought under culture with average productivity of 300-400 kg/ha/yr. The lakes have been subjected to a number of stress factors like heavy infestation of aquatic weeds, siltation, encroachment, habitat degradation, etc leading to considerable decline in its physical expanse and aquatic biodiversity. The policy seeks to bring almost every ox bow lake into culture based fisheries by the year 2020 and produce nearly 9000 tons of fish production every year. The policy encourages community participated management of the ox-bow lakes by active involvement of local fishing / farming communities. The leasing policy shall ensure long term leasing of water bodies to facilitate investment, inculcate a sense of ownership and sustainable production approach. The leasing priority, lease rent, terms and conditions are to be streamlined and subjected to periodic review. Cluster development approach is to be adopted to ensure easy and round the year availability of adequate and quality fish seed. Comprehensive mapping and survey for proper planning, renovation and restoration of oxbow lakes to make them suitable for fish culture, regular training and technical support are some of the most essential part of the management strategy so as to help them the involved local communities sustainably manage these ecologically significant resources.
Development of Fisheries in Floodplains and Wetlands The northeast part of Bihar has a long stretch of flood plains in Gandak and Kosi basins. A series of shallow lakes locally known as chaurs exist in these areas to the tune of about 46000 ha. These water bodies support a rich biodiversity, but are biologically sensitive and fragile in nature. They are also the repositories of variety of freshwater food and ornamental fishes. At present, a mainly capture fishery is being practiced with production being as less as 40 -50 Kg per/ha/year. Greater colonization of macrophytes and habitat degradation are also major problems. These water bodies, however, have shown high fish production to the tune of more than 1000 kg/ha/year in certain well managed pockets. The property regime in the floodplains is unique wherein many individual farmers own only part of the cropping land under submergence, making any culture and management practice conditional upon collective effort of the farmers. Some water spread areas cover land areas under both private as well as State ownerships. The policy recognizes this unique property regime and envisages cooperative/collective management of these water bodies wherein crop cultivation is integrated with fisheries (crop cultivation under individual management while fish culture under collective management). Thus this policy visualizes cluster development of water logged areas for food and employment without altering the nature of the ecosystem. Since water logged areas have submerged land holdings of many farmers, community based collective/participatory management would be the best and successful model of development. Farmers would be mobilised for the same so as to reach mutual commitments and make shared and informed decisions while reducing conflicts. This would minimize the uncertainty over resource use and finally farmers would share both the costs and benefits of their efforts. Demonstration of the possibility and profitability of aquaculture in chaurs through pilot scale intervention, encouraging the involvement of NGOs for mobilising and organising the farmers, motivation and training to farmers, facilitating different models of contractual farming arrangements, mobilising inputs, credit and marketing support under different schemes shall be the major thrust areas to achieve an average productivity of 500 to 700 kg/year/ha. Recognising that the policy statement of Department of Water Resources ‘water logged areas like chaurs and flood plains should not be drained out, rather they should be retained as it is and brought under fish culture’ would greatly benefit fisheries development, Department of Animal and Fish resources would work closely with Department of Water Resources and Department of Agriculture for integrated development of floodplains.
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