The government has declared the Halda river flowing through Chattogram and Khagrachhari as "Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage", meaning fish or aquatic animals cannot be caught from this river.
However, during the breeding season every year, fertilized fish eggs may be procured at specific times under the supervision of the Department of Fisheries.
During pre-breeding and breeding season (March-July) for Rui fish, no engine-driven boat will be allowed to ply on the Halda River.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Animal Resources issued a notice declaring the Halda River a Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage on Monday. The notice also declared that fish cannot be harvested during the breeding season (February-July) in 17 canals connected with this river.
23,422 acres of land on the bank of the 94-kilometer-long Halda river, flowing through Ramgar and Manikchari of Khagrachari; Fatikchari, Raujan, Hathajari and Pachlaish of Chattogram district, are under the purview of the Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage. Therefore, the release of any kind of waste in the river is prohibited.
According to the ministry, Rui fish in the Halda river are genetically pure. Therefore, sufficient fertilized eggs of the Rui are found in the river during the breeding season in April-June.
This river is also home to the endangered Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica). The breeding ground for freshwater fish, the unique Halda River has lost its character due to pollution and dams.
The factors endangering the river were identified about three years ago during a research conducted by Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute.
According to the research report, the Department of Agriculture and LGED constructed two rubber dams in Halda without consulting the Fisheries Department. As a result, where the upstream water can be used for irrigation, the downstream is dying during the dry season.
Tobacco fields at the river source and factory waste also pose as great dangers for the river. Brickfields are being operated, using river soil and water.
Damage to the Halda River has increased as the bends of the river have been cut and straightened, and the strong current of those bends are the spots where fish release their eggs.
Subol Bose Moni, additional secretary of ministry of fisheries and livestock, told The Business Standard, "It will take some time to identify the polluting industrial plants of Halda and stop them from discharging their liquid and solid waste into the river. We must restore Halda to the Fisheries Heritage."
"The Halda River and its riparian areas will be protected as a safe breeding ground for Rui fish and a habitat for Gangetic dolphins by conserving the natural environment and improving environmental standards," he added.
According to the notice issued by the ministry, building rubber or concrete dams over the river and its channels is forbidden. Also, the bends of the river can not be straightened; and no work can be done that changes the natural properties of land and water.
Extraction of water by setting up new water treatment plants and irrigation projects in Halda river cannot be done without the permission of the Bangabandhu Fisheries Heritage Supervision Committee.