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Rich Fish Species in Kulgam’s Veshow River Threatened by Pollution, Report

Kulgam, Jun 21: The Veshow River in Kulgam, a significant tributary of the River Jhelum, is witnessing a severe decline in its rich fish species due to escalating pollution levels. This deterioration is gravely impacting the river’s aquatic biodiversity, particularly threatening its trout population.

Originating from the pristine Kausarnag Lake and merging with the Jhelum River at Sangam, the Veshow River faces intense water quality degradation. Unchecked pollution and extensive mining activities are the primary culprits, leading to a perilous situation for the river’s aquatic life. The trout, once abundant, are now nearing extinction.

In August last year, the district administration of Kulgam organized the “Veshow Literary Festival” to celebrate the local culture, heritage, and traditions. Despite these efforts to highlight the river’s significance, its environmental health continues to deteriorate. Over six million gallons of drinking water are supplied daily to the district from the Veshow River, benefiting almost 100 villages.

Experts and locals have raised alarms over the river’s declining water quality. They cite pollution from mining operations and other sources as critical threats to the river’s ecosystem. Fishermen like Bashir Ahmad from Pahloo village have seen their livelihoods severely impacted, with fish catches drastically reducing from ten kilograms a decade ago to barely one or two kilograms today.

Ali Mohammed Dar, a resident of Turka-Tachloo, attributes part of the pollution problem to local residents who use the river as a dumping ground for garbage and sewage, exacerbating the contamination and leading to waterborne diseases. The river’s condition has shifted from crystal clear waters to a deteriorated state, heavily polluted by anthropogenic activities.

Senior research scholar Rauoof Ahmad Rather from SKUAST-K highlights that horticulture and agricultural runoff, containing carcinogenic heavy metals, are significant contributors to the pollution. These pollutants increase water temperature and disrupt the habitat of species like the Rohu fish, which thrives in the river’s freshwater environment.

District Mineral Officer (DMO) Kulgam, Murtaza Bashir Bhat, acknowledges the environmental damage caused by illegal mining and stresses the need for sustainable development. Meanwhile, Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, Assistant Director of Fisheries Kulgam, notes the decline in fish populations due to improper mining practices that destroy breeding and feeding grounds, despite ongoing fish stocking efforts.

To address these issues, experts recommend preventing residents from discharging waste into the river, promoting vegetation along its banks, banning illegal mining, and advising farmers to avoid using fertilizers during the rainy season. These measures are crucial to preserving the Veshow River’s aquatic biodiversity and ensuring the sustainability of its natural resources.

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