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APP
December 2, 2019

Rawal Lake’s lucrative fish makes it mafia’s warfare

Islamabad

A
APP
December 2, 2019

Islamabad :The Rawal Dam, initially built to supply drinking water to Pindities in 1962, gradually turns into an attractive tourists destination offering a lot of business activities of boating trips, fun riding, amusement facilities, eateries and fishing.

The most money-making business associated with this man-made reservoir is commercial fishing, so lucrative that during regularized fishing, “over Rs 1.5 million fish was being caught and sold daily for a just one time investment” disclosed the contractor of whose fishing rights expired in January this year.

This profitability has invited unwanted and unauthorised stakeholders who have made this scenic spot a warfare and illegal commercial fishing goes unabated due to the local administration’s inability to halt the practice, and government exchequer was the ultimate loser, admitted a top official in the local administration on condition of anonymity. “In the entire scenario the role of ICT’s Fisheries Department and local police is very suspicious. On public complaints, raids are conducted, boats are confiscated, arrests are made, FIRs are registered but very next day illegal business activity restarts in lake’s water” a local resident and practicing lawyer Hassan Nawaz raising the question said. The practice cannot be carried out without consolidation of local administration with the syndicate, he asserted.

“The influential residents, of Bani Gala and Lakhwal, villages located on the brink of lake, operating boating business in the Lake View Park, get aggressively involved in illegal hunting after the expiry of contract and the relevant departments have been intimated quite a few times. They have also poisoned the lake water in 2017 that killed thousands of fish to take revenge” said a private firm’s manager, Aurangzeb who had won two-year fishing rights in 2016, talking to APP.

The locals, however, negating the allegation said there business was boating trips offered to the tourists and they have nothing to do with the illegal fishing in the lake. “The contractor is still fishing unlawfully in day light despite the expiry of his contract,” blamed Raja Mudassar of village Lakhwal, who is also a petitioner in the court of law against alleged illegal fish hunting.

The Deputy Commissioner giving his remarks over the issue said the court had completely banned the fishing at the lake and admitted that on and off unlawful commercial fishing by the locals and contractor’s fishermen was being carried out, whose fishing rights had expired in January 2019.

Besides, providing all-out assistance to the departments concerned, he said they had also been asked to ensure full compliance of the court’s orders through strict vigilance of the area.

An official of Fisheries Department presenting his department’s justification said it had lack of resources and workforce to protect lake’s vast area from illegal fishing mafia. He said they were taking action as and when reported and it had recently confiscated over 40 boats in an operation conducted against cosa nostra.

Meanwhile, a fisherman of the contractor, requesting not to be named, alleged that the contractor’s manager was not letting several fishermen to go home and had their fishing equipment of worth Rs 0.5 million in his custody. “We are being compelled to do unauthorised fishing in lake and are asked to stay here because contractor believes the court is about to deliver the decision in his favour,” he added. He also shared audio clips of his conversation and arguments with the contractor requesting him to let them go back to their native town as their contract with him had got expired.

The local police when contacted said they did not get any written complaint from the aggrieved to take action. The manager Aurangzaib responding to the fishermen’s blame said his company’s contract with the fishermen was still intact and would expire on the end of season (May 31, 2020).

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