While the effect of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on the rat hole mining of coal in the state has severely affected the economy, fish species appear to be thriving in the absence of mining that had polluted one of the main rivers of the state, the Simsang.
Fish, according to the local population, are currently bountiful in the vast expanses of the river along the routes where coal mining had nearly made them disappear, mostly in the lower sections of the Simsang River along Nangalbibra.
While fish still thrived in areas which never had coal mining, mostly in places upstream of the rat hole mining areas, none were to be seen in the lower reaches as the water became acidic due to the discharge of waste from the nearby mines.
“This is nature healing itself after the ban on coal mining. There are plenty of fish in the river now in places where they had disappeared. This is at least a positive for the people of the areas earlier affected,” said one Handrick Marak, who posted photos of a bounty caught by a fisherman.
Fish from the Simsang have long had a very high market value due to its local nature as well as the profound taste that dishes with the local variety as said to make. Good local varieties cost over Rs 1,000 per kilogramme and provide a very good livelihood option to local fishermen.
Another local resident, Dr Saljagringgrang Marak, a veterinarian, felt the return of the fish was a good sign for the local populace.
” It’s a good sign and we hope there are more of the local species that fill the river. It will provide another avenue for revenue for those living by the side of the River Simsang,” said Dr Marak.
In the absence of coal, the district of South Garo Hills, where a major part of the mining economy is based, has struggled with livelihood options. Many had even had to resort to distress selling of their goods in an effort to get by. While the bounty of fish may not be able to solve the problems with the economy, it at least provides an alternative.