Farmers on protest mode as pollution of Periyar causes massive fish kill in Kochi’s industrial stretch

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: Inland fish farmers along the Periyar River, supported by political parties, launched a protest against the Pollution Control Board (PCB) on Wednesday, a day after they suffered huge losses due to a massive fish kill.
The PCB office at Eloor witnessed tense moments after the protesters, including activists of the Congress and CPI's youth wing All India Youth Federation (AIYF), came face to face with the police. The protesters also prevented the chief engineer from entering his office before letting him go.

The protesters threw stale fish onto the office premises in protest. Ernakulam MLA T J Vinod and District Congress president Mohammed Shiyas held talks with the chief engineer.

On Tuesday morning, tonnes of dead fish were found floating in the Periyar as well as caged farms in Edayar, Eloor, Varappuzha, Kothad, Kadamakudy, Cheranalloor and Kottuvally. Fish farmers allege that pollutants released by industries along the banks of the river caused the tragedy.

The PCB has meanwhile passed the blame on to the Irrigation Department suggesting that the sudden opening of the shutters of Pathalam regulator bridge might have caused the fish kill. As per the PCB's initial assessment. the oxygen level in the river might have drastically reduced when stagnant water with zero oxygen content got mixed with the water downstream when the shutters were opened following heavy rain.

The PCB has collected samples of water from the river and dead fish for analysis of the cause of the incident. The samples will be tested at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Oceanic Studies.

District Collector NSK Umesh has ordered the PCB to conduct an emergency inquiry into the incident. A committee has also been formed with representatives of the board, departments of irrigation, health, industries, fisheries and water authority to probe into the incident in detail. The committee has been instructed to submit its report to the collector in a week.

The collector has ordered the PCB's environmental engineer to find out if pollutants were released into the river by industrial units and take action. including closure, against errant factories, if any. The deputy director of the fisheries department has been asked to assess the loss of the fish stock and submit a report to the fisheries director in three days.

The Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikyavedi, a prominent fisherfolk union, has sought action against erring industrial units. Union president Charles George said that the PCB has not taken any steps to shut the pipe outlets through which certain factories release pollutants to the river despite fish kills being reported every year.

Aam Aadmi Party's Sujith C Sukumaran has written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seeking action against erring PCB officials. "The penalty that is going to be imposed on the culprits should be more than the compensation amount to ensure that the government can make up for the loss," the petition stated.

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