The Tiger of the freshwaters
The tiger of the jungle prowls in our imagination. Filling our senses with striped glory and rumbustious roars. Numerous tales have been penned and filmed on this wondrous creature.
But how many of us are familiar with an equally majestic tiger that bejewels the waters? A large, wondrous fish that gleams gold as it glides through dappled streams and rivers? How many of us are familiar with the Mahseer? The Mahseer is a fish that has a royal presence and impressive qualities. It belongs to a freshwater species that for many years has faced the threat of extinction in the wild.
At one time, this regal specimen used to thrive in the rapids of the Himalayan and Sahyadri ranges, besides other rivers and lakes across the country. Amidst raging white currents this playful fish would swim just below the surface, walloping the waters in glee, and glimmering in the soft sunlight. But soon this Mighty Mahseer, was being hunted because of its commanding size and rich looks. It became the target of fishermen and fishing companies. Out of 15 species of Mahseer in India, five faced the dire threat of extinction.
That was when Tata Power decided to step in, exactly fifty years ago. Just in the nick of time. For a fish that was literally feeling out of the water!
How Tata Power came into the picture
There is quite a quaint story as to how Tata Power wholeheartedly got immersed in Mahseer conservation. Apparently, the locals living in the villages in rural Maharashtra would worship the Mahseer as a god-fish because it sports a barble above its mouth that resembles a ‘nathini’ worn by a woman. These locals began noticing the dwindling of the Mahseer and then to their dismay, its absolute disappearance. Not knowing whom to turn to, they approached the Fisheries Department for help. The Department in turn enlisted Tata Power for support, since it had its plant in the area and was seen as a corporate that could make a difference.
And thus started Tata Power’s saga with the Mahseer. Exactly half a century ago.
The company began by conducting in-depth studies and researches. It was discovered that rampant discharge of industrial wastes, indiscriminate fishing of even brood and juvenile fish, deteriorating ecological conditions in spawning and rearing grounds, and use of explosives for mass killing of fish were some of the reasons for the Mahseer reaching dangerous extinction levels.
After carefully analysing and understanding the situation, a Mahseer Breeding Centre was set up in conjunction with the Central Institute of Fisheries Education near Tata Power’s Walwan Dam project at Lonavala, Maharashtra. Concentrating especially on the Blue-Finned and the top-of-the-pops Golden Mahseer. For the last 50 years, the Centre has offered unstinted support, ideas and innovation to increase the numbers of this precious species.
And today, on World Environment Day we are happy to announce that the Blue-Finned Mahseer has been taken off the IUCN red list
The Golden still remains on the list, but hopefully the day is not far off when this species of Mahseer too will no longer see red!
Why is the Mahseer so important for ecological balance?
This unique fish is very sensitive to dissolved oxygen levels, water temperature and sudden climatic changes. It just cannot bear pollution. So when we spew wastes into our rivers, we are not only sounding a death knell for the Mahseer, we are also losing an important indicator of freshwater ecosystems. So it cuts both ways.
Also, the current pandemic has taught us that by hunting animals and indiscriminate fishing we are destroying entire habitats and eco-systems. Thus making it easier for diseases to spread from one animal or bird or fish to another, and then spill over onto humans.
It follows then, that conserving the Mahseer, increasing its numbers, and getting it off the IUCN red list is even more important today than ever before. To stabilise our disturbed environment, to preserve our bio-diversity, and to ultimately save our very lives. The initiative that Tata Power began fifty years ago, now has an urgency to succeed like never before. If nothing else, we owe it to our children to make this world more ecologically balanced and disease free. And this can only happen by preserving crucial species like the Mahseer.
How Tata Power has empowered the Mahseer
Tata Power has developed an ingenious method to breed 4-5 lakh Mahseer hatchlings at a time at its Walvan Hatchery in Lonavala. The century old company has created a huge lake by damming the Indrayani River. It is here that the Blue-Finned and Golden species of Mahseer congregate, attracted by the sound of the highly oxygenated water in the lake.
A very careful and well-coordinated effort between Tata Power and the Fisheries Departments has resulted in some 11.6 million hatchlings making their homes in waters all over India and growing into awe-inspiring specimens that can measure up to 9 feet long weigh up to 33 kilograms!
50 years, but the work is far from over
The Mahseer numbers have been growing by leaps and bounds with every passing year. Unlike typical corporate practice, success in this venture is measured by literally going into the red, so that the Mahseer goes off the IUCN endangered list! Now what do we mean by that?
Our success in this long 50 year saga is best measured by the number of hatchlings we breed, (to be distributed all over the country). These have progressively started falling year on year instead of increasing. This means that the Mahseer population is growing organically. Rivers and lakes that were once bereft of the Mahseer are now teeming with them after hatchlings introduced from the Walvan hatchery have started breeding and increasing. Mahseer are also now being increasingly sighted at various points by avid Anglers. However the Golden Mahseer is still not off the red list and Tata Power will only believe its mission is accomplished when this is achieved.
About Tata Power:
Tata Power is India’s largest integrated power company and, together with its subsidiaries & jointly controlled entities, has an installed/ managed capacity of 12,808 MW. A pioneer in the field, it has a presence across the entire power value chain – generation of renewable as well as conventional power including hydro and thermal energy, transmission & distribution, coal & freight, logistics and trading. With nearly 3.9 GW of clean energy generation from solar, wind, hydro and waste heat recovery accounting for 31% of the company’s portfolio, Tata Power is a leader in clean energy generation. In line with the company’s view on sustainable and clean energy development, Tata Power is steering the transformation of utilities to integrated solutions by looking at new business growth in distributed generation through rooftop solar and micro grids, storage solutions, EV charging infrastructure, ESCO, home automation & smart meters. It has successful public-private partnerships in generation, transmission & distribution in India. Tata Power is serving around 12 million distribution consumers in India and has developed the country’s first 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project at Mundra (Gujarat) based on super-critical technology.
With its 106 years track record of technology leadership, project execution excellence, world-class safety processes, customer care and driving green initiatives, Tata Power is poised for multi-fold growth and committed to ‘lighting up lives’ for generations to come. Visit us at: www.tatapower.com.