Thousands Of Trout Fish Perish In Kokernag Sinkhole

Srinagar- As the trout-rich water of Brengi stream has vanished into a massive sinkhole, thousands of fish have died in the stream due to non-availability of water, leaving locals and experts in a lurch as they fear the numbers may gradually rise if a remedy to the sinkhole problem isn’t found.

On February 12, several media reports suggested that a massive sinkhole has led to a formation of whirlpool inside Wandalgam village’s Brengi stream in Kokernag area of Anantnag district that has left the downstream part of the stream completely dry, posing threat to the aquatic life especially the famous trouts of Brengi.

However, the experts have said that the formation of this sinkhole is a natural phenomenon that is usually formed in the limestone layer of the stream or a river. They have also junked the reports that had falsely claimed that the vertical hole is an assault unleashed by the unobstructed climatic changes on the mighty Himalayas and its peripheries.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, a local said that due to formation of this sinkhole, thousands of fish have died till now. “The riverbed of the stream was jammed up with dead fish.” Tanveer, who wishes to be known by his first name, told Kashmir Observer.

“By the time, department [Fisheries Department] officials arrived at the spot, these fish had already died. The officials had then requested the professional local fishermen to save the rest of the fish by relocating them to a water-abundant portion of the stream.”

It is pertinent to mention here that so far the administration hasn’t found any solution to the problem. However, three teams from NIT Srinagar, Kashmir University and J&K’s Geology Department have already visited the spot to prepare a report, after which the government will decide on how to fill the sinkhole.

“A large number of fish species including trout have perished in the dying stream as they were found on the river bed of the stream when the water was being sucked by the whirlpool formed due to the sinkhole.” Jehangeer Ahmed, another local said. “Saving those fish was in no one’s hand but by delaying filling of this sinkhole, the administration is increasing a threat on aquatic life.”

However, officials say that they saved as many fish including trout as they could and relocated them to other water bodies.

"As soon as the fisheries department was informed by the officials on ground, we dispatched a team to safeguard the aquatic life. However by the time we reached the spot, a good number of fish had died but many were still in the pool downstream. We shifted them to safer destinations. These things are beyond one's control. Whatever measures and steps we were supposed to take, we took them swiftly," Mohammad Sidique Wani, Deputy Director, Department of Fisheries, told Kashmir Observer.

He further added, “Majority of the fish that had died due to non-availability of the water were the local fish and their seeds. Trouts have also died but their number is relatively less as in this season when water flow is less, these trout fish migrate to a spot where the gush of water is higher. The department along with the other expert team have been working day and night to come up with a plan that will subside the threat created by the sinkhole on the local population and on aquatic life especially the trout. However, until a solution is found, the threat on aquatic life will continue to remain as that is absolutely in no one’s hand.”

As per the official, for now the threat on trout is less as they had already migrated from the 20-km stretch that has dried. “But, if the stream isn’t restored to its original form by next month, the threat on fish including trout will rise to an unprecedented level as the glaciers will start melting and the water flow will increase that will simultaneously push these fish to the downstream part.”

As per reports, the expert team at the site of the incident has also found another cavity that has hampered the artificial channel that the department had laid down for flow of water downstream. Meanwhile, the locals fear that the number of dead fish will increase because of the sinkhole, if the Government doesn’t come up with an on-time solution.

“This sinkhole not only poses threat to aquatic life but also to the local population as the Brengi Nallah water is used by the local population for daily activities. This stream is known for its trout richness. By next month, the water flow will increase and the rush of trout fish in the 20-km stretch will increase but if the sinkhole is still there, the trout will either perish or will be sucked into the sinkhole.” Bashir Ahmed, a local said.

Notably, the district administration has said that it won’t make hasty decisions to fill the sinkhole without an expert team’s advice. “We don't want to make a hasty decision to fill the sinkhole without proper advice from the three teams that are working on it. We are working on a comprehensive report so that a conclusive way is found. A final report by all three teams will determine our plan of action. This area is not new to sinkhole phenomena.” said Piyush Singla, DC Anantnag.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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