Periyar fish kill: Minister wants protocol for opening Pathalam regulator

Tonnes of fish were found dead and floating in the Periyar as well as caged farms in areas Edayar, Eloor, Varappuzha, Kothad, Kadamakudy, Cheranalloor and Kottuvally. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: Kerala’s Industries Minister P Rajeeve on Thursday said a special protocol would be formulated for opening the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge in the Periyar to prevent another round of fish kill due to pollutants.
The minister announced the decision in the wake of the river witnessing a massive fish kill allegedly caused by depletion of oxygen level in the water following the opening of the regulator-cum-bridge. The local people, mostly the caged fish farmers, who suffered losses to the tune of lakhs of rupees have not, however, bought the ‘oxygen depletion’ theory stated by the Pollution Control Board (PCB) in its initial assessment.
They allege that effluents including chemical waste released by certain industrial units caused mass destruction. They also blame the PCB for not reining in the erring factories despite repeated incidents of fish kill. "There is no protocol in the state for opening shutters of regulator-cum-bridge. However, the Pathalam facility requires a special protocol considering repeated incidents of pollution in the Periyar.

The Irrigation Department has to formulate the protocol while a committee comprising representatives of the department, PCB as well as local self-government department will have to oversee its implementation," the minister said.

The minister said a detailed inquiry would be conducted into the incident. "A scientific study will be conducted to find out the source and the nature of the pollutants," he said. He said the sub-collector has been instructed to compile reports of different ongoing inquiries and submit a report on Saturday. The PCB has started a probe and collected samples of water for testing. Samples of the dead fish have been sent to the central lab of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Oceanic Studies (KUFOS) for tests.

“Based on the findings in the report, it will be ascertained if a higher level inquiry is needed. It will also be looked into if more tests are required to find out the source of the pollutants and if they were chemical or organic,” the minister said.

The minister said the government will compensate the losses suffered by the fish farmers in the region. “The losses are huge. The farmers ventured into cage fish farming with the spirit of entrepreneurship. Steps will be taken to prevent them from losing their confidence,” the minister said.

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