"We import close to 25,000 tonnes of fish annually from other states, notably, from Andhra Pradesh. The whole effort of this mission is to cut down on import and to make Meghalaya self-sufficient in freshwater fish," said K.N. Kumar, Meghalaya's principal secretary (fishery department) at the first Meghalaya State Aqua Fest held here Tuesday.
The Meghalaya government has embarked on an ambitious mission to make the state self-sufficient in fish production and in the first phase of this endeavour it proposes to create 6,518 ponds by December-end and release 1,000 fingerlings in each of these water bodies.
"By the end of this year, the ponds would be created and by June-July next year table-size fishes (about 600 gm) would reach the dining table of the people. The objective of the government is to do away with the reliance on the import of fishes from Andhra Pradesh," he said.
Out of 6,518 ponds, 5,800 have been sanctioned and 5,804 farmers have received the first instalment of financial help from the government.
Meghalaya imports an estimated 25,000 tonnes of fish annually from Andhra Pradesh, consisting mainly of Indian major carps like Rohu, Katla and Mriga.
As part of the Aquaculture Mission launched in March 2012 by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, the government has provided subsidy for creation of the ponds to 40,000 proposed fish farmers.
Creation of each pond costs about Rs.one lakh of which 60 percent will come as grant from the state, 25 percent as bank loan and 15 percent as contribution from the beneficiaries.
Kumar said a three-pronged approach has been adopted to unleash the state's fishery potential.
The first investment that was made, Kumar said, was on the farmers who are the primary stakeholders by building their capacities so that they are ready and prepared to handle the massive challenge of making the state fully sufficient in fisheries.
For the last two years, the capacity of the fishery department officials has been upscaled so that they are sufficiently equipped in various aspects, he said.
The third investment was on creating the requisite infrastructure by building up partnership with established institutions, Kumar added.
"In our state, which is endowed with abundant land and water and has an unemployment problem, it does not make sense to import fresh water fish from a 2,000 km distance," he said.
The target for developing the fish ponds before the end of December is 6,518 of 0.1 hectare in size, which is around 650 hectares of water area, the state official added.
"This is a kind of water area which is not easy to achieve in the normal course because it took as long as a decade for us to develop just about 500 hectares of water areas and then we are trying to achieve it within just two years' time," Kumar added.
"It is quite redeeming to know that most of the farmers have not waited for the banks to extend funds. Instead, they went ahead and completed the work and they have even released the fingerlings in anticipation of future sanctions from the banks," Kumar said.
The production from these fish ponds will begin from June-July of 2014.