Toxic ‘blue’ river Lukha in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia hills district is believed to be the main case of extinction of a critically endangered fish species in Bangladesh’s Sylhet district.
A report – Red List of Bangladesh, compiled by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has reported that habitat destruction may have caused extinction of the fish species from river Lukha (Lubachhara in Bangladesh)
The fish species — Goalpara Loach (scientific name: Neoeucirrhichthys maydelli) was found in abundance in river Lubachhara, a tributary of river Surma in northeast corner of Sylhet district in Bangladesh.
As river Lukha flows into Bangladesh about 8 kms south of Sonapur in East Jaintia hills, it is known as Lubachhara (in Bangladesh).
Lukha turns ‘deep blue’ in colour during winter months because of discharges from limestone mines and cement factories around Thangskai and Lumshnong in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya.
Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has blamed the cement companies for polluting Lukha, and has set a deadline of three weeks to the Meghalaya government to identify the exact cause of pollution, and to resolve it.
While aquatic flora and fauna have been destroyed due to the ‘toxic’ water of Lukha, two cement companies — Topcem Cement and Star Cement have been accused of ‘polluting’ the river system.
In East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya, Topcem Cement and Star Cement are the largest producers of cement.
Topcem Cement has its production unit at Umdoh near Thangskai, and its mines are at South Khliehjri. Star Cement has its unit at Lumshnong.
Members of the Narpuh Unit of KSU alleged that the water of Lukha started to turn blue from 2007.
Star Cement had started production from 2004, while Topcem Cement started production in 2006.
While the KSU alleged that several endangered species of flora and fauna perished in the ‘toxic’ water of Lukha, it has been reported that Goalpara Loach fish has been not been sighted in river Lubachhara in Sylhet in the recent past.
The Goalpara Loach fish was a unique species in the river system, and is about 3.6 cm in length. The fear of extinction of the species is a big loss to Bangladesh.
The IUCN report said the fish species was last sighted on March 25, 2009 in river Someswari near Susong Durgapur in Netrokona district of Bangladesh.
Given the threats facing the location where the Goalpara Loach was found, there is a possibility of total extinction of the species, the IUCN reported.
Conservationists in Bangladesh said in addition to the ‘toxic’ water of Lubachhara, massive stone mining at Kanaighat could be the added reason for disappearance of Goalpara Loach from the river system.
During winter months, the stone quarries use heavy machineries to extract more than 400,000 cubic feet of boulders every day in Kanaighat.
While the Meghalaya government is now under pressure from the KSU to find out the root cause of ‘blue’ Lukha, the issue of extinction of critically endangered fish species may catch New Delhi on the back-foot during bi-lateral meetings with Bangladesh.