Locals say it is not the first time that this has happened, but the magnitude of this week’s incident has shocked them all.

Thousands of dead fish wash ashore at Telangana lake locals blame polluting industriesImages: Abhinav Kulkarni
news Ground Report Monday, May 29, 2017 - 16:55

Forty-year-old Veeraiah waits patiently as he casts a fishing line into the water.

"I have not even caught one today," he remarks, adding, "So many of them died, that it’s become tough to catch a live one."

Veeraiah stands at the banks of the Rampally lake, in Telangana's Medchal district, where several thousand fish, washed ashore on Sunday.

A day later, the banks are still lined with hundreds of fish, from different species like Rohu, Catla, Bangaru Theega and Koramenu. 

The stench from the rotting fish lingers in the air, much before one even approaches the lake.

"I wasn't there when it happened, but I came to see today morning after I read about it. It's the same situation around the circumference of the lake," says Sai, a local, as he points to a massive fish that's washed ashore. 

"This one must be at least 10kg or even more," he adds.

Even in the middle of the lake, one could see several floating fishes.

"We have been coming here for five to six years. We have seen smaller fish wash ashore sometimes, but nothing like this," says Shankar, who is accompanied by his friend, Srikanth.

"Because of this, we are not able to catch any fish today," he adds.

According to locals, this is not the first time that this has happened, but the magnitude of the incident this week, has shocked them all. 

"Earlier, once in a few days, we used to see the smaller fish wash ashore. This time, some of the biggest fishes in the lake have also died in the thousands. I don't know if the water is safe anymore. We catch these fish and eat them usually, but after seeing this, I have my doubts," says Srikanth.

(Shankar and Srikanth)

Initially after the incident, District Fisheries Officer E Balaiah spoke to local media persons, and said that the intense heatwave may have caused the deaths. 

He also said that they had taken samples of the water for testing.

However, officials have since said that the fish, most likely died due to industrial pollution.

Claiming that polluted effluents from various small scale and medium-scale factories in places like the Mallapur Industrial area and Nagaram, find their way into the Rampally lake, Srinu, a local fisherman, adds that he has witnessed the deterioration of the lake over the years. 

"If you would have come a decade ago, this fish had a lively ecosystem, and we were able to catch many fish. Today, there are not many left, which is why I'm fishing here," he says, as he casts his line near one of the outlets of the lake.  

"Even the water has changed colour, from blue to green," he adds.

Speaking to the media, Vice-President of the local Fishermen Cooperative Society, E Anjaiah, said, "Water pollution is the main reason for this. Due to this, lots of fishermen have suffered losses. The authorities have to take action and provide compensation.”

He also asked authorities to ensure that such a situation did not repeat itself.

Speaking to The News Minute, Village Revenue Officer (VRO), Sriramulu said, "It most likely seems that it is the industrial pollution that caused the deaths. The lake is always full, throughout the year, and it is unlikely that the heat would have affected the fishes."

"For now, the fishermen's cooperative society is looking to clear the lake by using barrels of items like lime and salt. They are coordinating with the fisheries department, and trying to find an amicable solution," he added. 

The water quality of any lake, is measured by its Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) level, which is the amount of dissolved oxygen available for oxygen consuming bacteria. It indicates the amount of decayable organic matter present in water.

While the BOD levels below 3mgpl can be considered clean, anything above 4 mgpl is considered polluted.

While the Telangana Pollution Control Board (PCB) doesn't have specific numbers for the lake under its National Water Quality Monitoring Programme (NWMP) data for the year 2016, it states that the nearby Mallapur tank had a BOD level of 32 mgpl.

Last year, it was reported that the most polluted lake in the city, was the Pragathinagar Cheruvu, with a reported BOD level of 144 mgpl, while the BOD level for Noor Mohammed Kunta, was 105 mgpl. 

It is also interesting to note that the same effluents that are allegedly dumped into the Rampally lake, also make their way to the Edulabad lake in Ghatkesar, on the other side of Hyderabad's Outer Ring Road. 

The Edulabad lake, also known as the Laxminarayana cheruvu, is one of the most polluted lakes in the city, and spews toxic, white foam throughout the year.

Locals allege that it was triggered by toxic chemicals released into the lake over several decades, by various pharmaceutical industries in Hyderabad.

Incidentally, one of the earliest signs of pollution in the lake, was in March 2000, when locals gathered at the lake’s shoreline, and saw several hundred fish wash up dead.


Read: Hyderabad's 'development' turned this village's lake toxic, and locals are losing hope



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