18-19 June, 2014, Samdrupcholing Dungkhag: The meeting started with a brief introduction by the Dzongkhag Livestock Officer on the purpose of the gathering for the stakeholders’ consultative meeting. He highlighted that this meeting was timely and needed to resolve many issues before the project began. He informed the floor that before planning any programs that are directly related to community concern, it is of utmost importance to understand the consensus and overall views of the beneficiaries. He also shared the information on the mandates of the National Centre for Riverine and Lake Fishery (NCRL), Haa, and successful programs elsewhere in the Bhutan.
Dasho Dungpa also expressed to the floor on the programs and its contribution to the communities. Dasho also informed that Dungkhag administration has written concern to the Geog EAs and Gups to carry out the feasibility study and do the necessary ground works to expedite the programs. But it failed to be carried out as instructed which was why there was delay in proposing and getting the programs started as per the plan.
The discussion began with the identification of potential rivers in the Dungkhag that could be possibly included in the Riverine fishery programs within this plan period. The identified rivers apart from Merak Amachu were Kala Nadi (sambrang), Rechanglo and Kakanai.
The fishery cooperative in the Dungkhag has immensely contributed in lowering the import of fresh products within the community and Dungkhag as a whole. However, the land shortage and the lack of perennial water sources are the main hindrances for not being able to gear up to the magnitude of commercial ventures. Nevertheless, this Dzongkhag has topped among all the Dzongkhags in terms of fresh fish production. At present this cooperative has a total number of 65 households as members. After the prolonged discussion the floor decided that new membership specifically for the Riverine program will be allowed as a separate body but under the umbrella of the present fishery cooperative. Otherwise, the entry of new memberships to the existing old cooperative shall cost a sum of Nu.1800 for each new member.
With well-defined by-laws of the cooperative which have been implemented for long, the existing cooperative can play a vital role in the sustainable management of the Riverine fishes in the areas. Forming a separate group of beneficiaries in the same locality does not justify and may lead to the conflict of interest among the communities. Therefore, the floor agreed that the new members interested in Riverine fishery program may join the cooperative for an equal share of benefits as an active member. However, all the management aspects will be taken care of by the old cooperative.
The stretches of Merek Ama River which passes through the main land of Phuntshothang Geog before entry to the Indian border has high potential for the community to generate income. The migration pattern of the fishes needs to be studied in close consultation with local fishermen and a clear line of management plan has to be drawn for the sustainable harvest from the river. In order to have good management practices in place and working modalities within the communities it is very crucial to conduct several consultative meeting and awareness session before the activities kick off.
Dasho Dungpa reiterated that so many illegal fishing were reported and often villagers breached the rules and have had to bear heavy penalties for illegal fishing. He informed the floor that many elite groups were found using electric shocks (UPS) in capturing the fishes which is an unsustainable way and would result in the extinction of the fish’s population in the long run.
Having mentioned the potentiality of the Merek Amachu, it is of utmost importance to have marketing strategies in place as to how to do and what to do when bulks of fishes get harvested from the river. By looking at the consumption habit and preference of dry fish among the Bhutanese diet this poses a high potential for packaging of dry fishes. This can help in curtailing the import of large quantities of dry fish from India.
The meeting was supported by the National Centre for Riverine and Lake Fishery, Haa.
– Samdrup Jongkhar Gonor
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