An alien fish is wreaking havoc in the Krishna river after it was linked to the Godavari

The linking of the Godavari and the Krishna rivers in Andhra Pradesh, which was inaugurated last year, seems to have led to an unforseen problem.
Fishermen in Guntur district’s Tadepally village on the banks of the Prakasam Barrage, which straddles the Krishna, are complaining that a species of fish, hitherto never seen in the river before, was damaging their nets and scaring away other fish. Consequently, they say their catch, and earnings, have dropped.
“I have been a fisherman since I was child,” said Paikam Suresh, 35, of Tadepally village. “Nowadays we are catching a new kind of fish which we call rakashi. This rakashi is ruining our livelihood.”
Drop in income
Rakashi, in Telugu, means the devil. The fishermen of Tadepally have given the fish this name thanks to the havoc it is wreaking with their livelihood.
The carnivorous fish belongs to the armoured catfish family. It is not native to the Krishna river, where species like the Bengal carp (catla), reba carp, grunter, white carp (mrigal), the snakehead (murrel) and other small fish called jalalu locally are found.
The rakashi is more trouble than it is worth. For one, there is scant demand for it. Then, fishermen complain that the rakashi’s fins get entangled in their nets, and it takes at least two hours to extricate it. If 10 such fish get entangled in one net, it can take the whole day to get them out. Fishermen say they are often forced to cut their nets to extricate these fish.
All this has affected their daily income.
Suresh and his fellow fishermen say they used to earn Rs 500 a day from catching 200-300 fish. Now their catch has dwindled, and no one wants to buy the rakashi that they invariably catch.
“We are a poor family and because of this fish our nets are being spoiled,” said Suresh. “Each net costs a minimum of Rs 5,000. Also the Rakashi feeds on other fishes in the river and we are losing our livelihood.”
He added: “Recently officials from the Fisheries Department came and examined the fish and told us not to sell or eat it.”
Suresh said that the fish had only been spotted since the Pattiseema lift irrigation project started. The Rs 1,300 crore project, inaugurated in August 2015, is envisioned to take 80 thousand million cubic feet of water from the Godavari through the Krishna to Andhra Pradesh’s parched Rayalaseema district.
Dangerous for diversity
Flummoxed experts are now studying whether the new species entered the Krishna river from the Godavari.
“Even we came know about this only recently,” said M Basava Raju, joint director of fisheries, Andhra Pradesh. “It might have come due to the interlinking of Godavari and Krishna waters. Even we don’t know the exact reason. We have asked our officials to investigate.”
Farida Tampal, state director, Worldwide Fund for Nature in Hyderabad sounded an alarm, saying that the armoured catfish doesn’t belong to either the Godavari or the Krishna rivers.
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