September 4th, 2020
By Abdul Baseer
After restrictions were imposed by the provincial government during the COVID pandemic and tourists to the valley decreased abruptly, the farmers had been worried about the stockpile of fish due to a lack of tourists to the valley. The distraught farmers now are left with no fish to sell, as furious floods in Swat have swept away around 150 trout-fish farms, causing a loss of millions of Rupees to the nascent fish farming industry in the region. The devastation caused by rains and floods has put the livelihood of hundreds of farmers in the tourist valley at stake.
Trout often prized as a delicacy by tourists, can sell at about Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 per kilogramme. According to the provincial fisheries department, the farms in Swat produce about 200 tonnes of trout annually.
150 farms, 100 tonnes fish stock lost in floods
The fish stock of 100 tonnes has been washed away from farms and hatcheries located around tourist spots of Madyan, Sekhar and Bahaa in Swat. For fish farmer Mikhail, the President of Trout Fish Association Swat, his fears have materialized.
The boundary wall of the Trout Culture Training Centre in Madyan also collapsed in the deluge but officials say did not cause much damage to the centre as to fish farms elsewhere. Mikhail says trout fish flock of varying sizes and close to 1.5 million fish eggs were lost in floods, causing millions of rupees in losses to farmers in Swat.
“I appeal to the provincial government to announce a relief package for trout farmers in Swat so that farmers may recoup lost stock and stand on their feet again,” Mikhail tells Voicepk.net.
Appeal for compensation and relief package
“ There were about 20 farms in my region – each with 20 ponds filled with trout, but the floods have completely devastated them,” says farmer Rasheed Ahmed. The damage is so high there is no trace left of the farms. He says no official survey to estimate damages and losses has been carried out as yet.
Farmers in Madyan have been especially hit hard with losses amounting to millions of Rupees, says local farmer Falak Niaz. The eight farms in his region were also completely destroyed. “The ponds in my farm had a flock of about 50,000 fish out of which half was ready for the market. We have lost our only source of livelihood,” Falak Niaz adds.
A survey to assess losses
The provincial government has tasked officials of the Trout Culture Training Centre in Madyan to assess losses suffered by trout farmers. According to KP Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Mohibullah Khan, the provincial fisheries department is carrying out a survey to assess damages and losses faced by the trout farmers in Swat. Apart from the collapse of the boundary wall, the Trout Culture Training Centre suffered little damage, he says, adding that the wall will be repaired soon.
“I have directed the department, the assistant directors as well as the commissioner to survey damages suffered by the fish farmers.”
The fate of the fish farmers in Swat has been dismal, to say the least. From the wave of terrorism striking the valley to the devastating floods in 2010, followed by the COVID pandemic causing great economic losses, the floods and rains are just an addition to the misery faced by the people of Swat, washing away their dreams and livelihood.