The queen of water has found its way into the desert. The wastelands of Bikaner, in the Indian State of Rajasthan, so far known for indigenous researches on camels, will be used for fish cultivation and will pave the way for employment generation in the state.

The first fish hatchery has been set up by an individual with help from the state’s fisheries department in Bikaner’s Chattargarh area recently. More are likely to come up soon. “Over 80% of fishes consumed for food in Rajasthan are bought from other states. It makes them more expensive and unaffordable for regular consumption. The project, launched recently by the department, aims mainly at generating employment and easy availability of fish in the state,” DS Chhawda, deputy director, fisheries, said.

Under the project, private individuals are being invited to set up hatcheries. “Department is providing interested individuals financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh to set up a hatchery. In exchange, the individual has to give 25% of the total fish cultivated each year free of cost to the department for 10 years,” said the officer. After 10 years, the cultivator will be able to keep 100% of the production. Besides, the onus of procuring land for the hatchery will be on the cultivator. “The land will have to be mortgaged to the department for the first 10 years,” said the officer.

He added there are patches in the region where rain water harvesting can be used for fish cultivation. “The cultivators will be encouraged for rain water harvesting besides tapping the available water resources in the area,” the officer said.

However, the project has met with minor hiccups after the launch. Cultivators are saying mortgage of the land and giving 25% of the total cultivation to the department are quite harsh conditions.

“Interested people opine that 25% share for the department should be reduced. Besides, the mortgage of land should also be done away with,” he said. “We are looking into the complaints being raised by interested individuals and will try to sort some of them. Some applications are being reviewed and financial assistance will be provided if they are approved,” he added.

According to an estimate, the total market requirement in the state is about 1 lakh metric tonne. However, current estimated production is 30,000 metric tonne.

2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.