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Reservoir Fisheries Management

In developing economies, open water inland fisheries not only play an important role in the nutrition for the poor, but also provide livelihood for many people engaged in the sector. In the case of reservoir fisheries we identify various types of institutional regimes. The Tawa reservoir in Madhya Pradesh is a classic case that has experienced various management regimes in the last three decades. It provides an ideal opportunity to comprehend the performance of different regimes and their implications for productivity (efficiency criterion), wages and employment (equity criteria) and fingerlings stocking and technology use (resource sustainability criteria) across different regimes. Further, the paper details the management practices under the Tawa Matsya Sangh and emphasises that these practices should be integrated with an understanding of the resource base.

Reservoir Fisheries Management

Experience of Tawa in Madhya Pradesh

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Economic and Political WeeklyFebruary 3, 2007411party develops its own device to monitor the reservoir from othersto catch fish. It employs the fisherfolk from the region or fromoutside on wage basis.In the state managed systems, fish catching traditionally wason the basis of rights to communities of fishermen settled nearthe water body and in some cases rights were conferred evenon individual fisherfolk. Of late, however, the formation ofcooperatives is being emphasised in the state managed systems.These cooperatives could either be on a wage or (catch) sharebasis. Many of the state governments also involve themselvesdirectly in marketing (under the wage-based system). There areinstances now of privatising some or all these stages. Some ofthese are true for cooperative regimes too. However, cooperativesfunction strictly through the formation of a primary society whoserepresentatives and others form the federation of the primarysocieties. Both the state and cooperative regimes are likely tohave high overhead costs leading to inefficiency. On the otherhand, cooperatives, if and when managed well, provide betterreturns to fisherfolk. The CPR nature of the resource thereforerequires a model, which can optimise efficiency in production,equitability in distribution of income and sustainability of theresource. We attempted to understand a few of these factors inthe case of Madhya Pradesh. A point to be emphasised is thatthe resource and institutions governing it are intertwined andinseparable and found to jointly affect outcomes. Before gettinginto the specifics of the case, the institutional arrangements inreservoir fisheries in various states in India is discussed.Institutional Arrangements of ReservoirFisheries in IndiaInstitutions in reservoir fisheries are of a varying nature indifferent states of India. The system of leasing rights and fishingrights also varies from state to state. Even within a state, leasingand fishing rights vary between reservoirs. Usually, in most ofthe states, the department of fisheries or state fisheries deve-lopment corporations obtain the fishery management rights fromthe reservoir authorities by paying a nominal amount or royalty(and in some cases without any payment at all). Fishery depart-ments or corporations either manage the system themselves orlease-out the reservoir for a definite period ranging from a fewmonths to a few years and receive royalty. The leasing arrange-ments of fishing rights are different in different states, though.These include departmental fishing, fee-based or free licencefishing, share system, open auction to cooperatives or privateparties with or without rendering any fisheries developmentservices [Sinha and Katiha 2002, for details see, Appendix Table2].In fact, many states follow multiple systems of leasing andfishing rights (Appendix Table 2). To appreciate the implicationsof different management regimes a few factors should be un-derstood. First, stocking is an integral part of reservoir fisheries,which follows a stocking-cum-capture pattern, evidently if stock-ing is neglected output is adversely affected. On an average, atwo-year time lag is followed for fingerlings to mature into awell-grown fish. The second factor is the output and productivityof the reservoir. The third is associated with marketing andincome from the fisheries and the fourth is of income distribution;ie, the number of days of employment fishing activity couldgenerate and the share of income of fisherfolk. While the firstfactor is associated with sustainable resource use, the other threerepresent efficiency in production and equity in distribution ofincome. All these factors have to be understood under differentinstitutional domains in order to develop a meaningful perceptiveof the institutions involved in fisheries management of thereservoirs. We attempt to understand these factors in MadhyaPradesh reservoir fisheries.Reservoir Fisheries Managementin Madhya PradeshMadhya Pradesh3 with 32 medium dams and five large damshas more than 32 and 10 per cent surface area of medium andlarge dams in India, respectively. Fisheries activity in the stateis largely based in the reservoirs. Madhya Pradesh has undergonevarious management regimes in the last three decades.There were four different regimes, which encompassed theMadhya Pradesh fisheries management at different points of time.Before 1979, it was the state fisheries department that used tomanage fisheries – stocking, leasing and providing fishing rightsto fisherfolk or primary cooperatives. In 1979, Madhya PradeshFisheries Development Corporation (MPFDC) was formed whichbecame the nodal agency for fisheries management in reservoirs.It also extended its services in providing extension services andmarketing. In initial years MPFDC itself used to procure the fishand transport it to distant markets. However, due to recurringlosses in transportation, MPFDC started calling for tenders fromprivate parties to lift the fish from different sites of the reservoirs.In early 1990, MPFDC went a step ahead and leased out fishingrights too. During this period, it called for tenders and contractedout the catching to private parties on royalty on a yearly basis.Madhya Pradesh Matsya Mahasangh (Fish Federation) replacedMPFDC in 1999 and this fish federation is now responsible formanagement of fisheries activities in all the reservoirs exceptTawa.Thus, the fisheries department, MPFDC, cooperative federationsand private contractors formed the four major regimes in differentreservoirs. In one year, 1995-96, there was no institutional regimein the Tawa reservoir. This can be treated as a period of openaccess, which formed another dimension of the property regimein the fisheries history in the reservoirs of Madhya Pradesh.Among the different regimes, the fisheries department andMPFDC regimes broadly represent the public sector; the coop-erative regime people’s management and the contractor regimethe private sector in fishing management. An understanding ofthese three domains, i e, public, private and cooperatives, wouldgive a comparative perspective of the functioning of theregimesinterms of productivity, financial management, wagesand employment and sustainability of the management system.This may further enable one to identify the institutional strengthsandshortcomings of different regimes, which can be borne inmind while designing institutional needs for management ofreservoirfisheries.TawaThe Tawa reservoir was constructed on the river Tawa, atributary of the Narmada. The construction of Tawa Dam wasstarted in 1956 and completed in 1974, the state governmentbegan fish production in the reservoir in 1975. The responsibilitywas transferred to the MPFDC, which continued until 1994.The local community was not involved in fishing during theseperiods and fishing was carried out mostly by employing fisher-men hired from outside. In 1994, the reservoir was auctionedto
Economic and Political WeeklyFebruary 3, 2007414days created, we find a positive correspondence between both(for production data see Table 7). However, the causal linkbetween the two is yet to be understood. In contrast, in spite ofreducing labour days in the later years, the total working daysin the reservoir has increased.Stocking Scenario under TMS ManagementStocking of fingerlings is the most important factor in deter-mining production. In the absence of an adequate availabilityof fingerlings in the region, future production remains unknown.During the new institutional regime of TMS, dropping of fin-gerlings increased in the initial four years after which it declinedmarginally. Among the three types of fingerlings that are droppedin the reservoir, namely, ‘katla’, ‘rohu’ and ‘mrigal’, the firsttwo are considered major crops and the last one a local (major)crop. Fingerlings of local minor crops are not dropped into thereservoir. Over the last eight years, the proportion of each varietyof fingerling is changing with the ‘katla’ having the largest share.In the initial two years of the TMS, fingerlings were largelypurchased from the Madhya Pradesh Fish Federation (MPFF)or other private firms. Over the years, however, the TMS hasdeveloped capacity among the local communities to harvestfingerlings that has significantly reduced the dependency onexternal sources. From a meagre percentage in the initial years,production of 37 per cent of total fingerlings is a quantum jump,which shows the internal institutional capability to manage andsustain fish production of the reservoir.The enhanced production of fingerling by TMS not only showsa reduced dependency on external sources but also reflects theadditional livelihood and employment opportunities created inthe periphery of the Tawa reservoir. In 2003-04, nearly 37 percent of total fingerling stocks and 38.7 per cent of the value ofstocking was procured from TMS’ own source (Table 6).Production Scenario in New RegimeThe overall production scenario shows that total productionhad an increasing trend in the initial four years of the regimeand started declining afterwards. However, there were somesignificant changes in fish composition. Major crops (e g, rohuand mrigal) constitute a substantial portion of total fish catch.Table 7: Production Scenario in TMS RegimeYear1996-971997-981998-991999-20002000-012001-022002-032003-04Major crops74.719202.809288.170312.193243.547206.638119.931107.325(Per cent to total)(80.14)(82.50)(83.69)(79.40)(74.43)(76.79)(59.34)(54.79)Local major crops13.28423.71533.44436.13342.65326.6634.84436.675(Per cent to total)(14.24)(9.64)(9.71)(9.20)(13.04)(9.91)(17.23)(19.23)Local minor crops5.22519.22422.76144.83040.97535.76247.36050.890(Per cent to total)(5.60)(7.84)(6.60)(11.40)(12.53)(13.29)(23.43)(25.98)Total production (in tonnes)93.229245.811344.375393.163327.125269.054202.136195.891Targeted production (in tonnes)—240.000264.000350.000425.000425.000350.000350.000Per ha productivity (in kgs)7.68020.24028.35032.37026.94022.15016.64316.129Source:Various Annual Reports of Tawa Matsya Sangh.Table 8: Income Scenario during TMS RegimeYear1997-981998-991999-20002000-012001-022002-032003-04Income from fish sell (thousand rupees)775699861253511671972171277440Total Income of the fisherfolk (thousand rupees)3045471552124746363726642943Royalty (paid to fish federation) (thousand rupees)11801653188715701291970940Per capita per day earning in current price (in rupees)65.5689.3993.2790.9373.6462.7963.92Source:Various Annual Reports of Tawa Matsya Sangh.Table 9: Comparison of Growth Rate of Production and Income(In per cent)Between the YearsGrowth Rate of ProductionGrowth Rate of Income1997-98 to 1998-9940.1028.751998-99 to 1999-0014.1725.531999-00 to 2000-01-16.80-6.892000-01 to 2001-02-17.75-16.712001-02 to 2002-03-24.87-26.682002-03 to 2003-04-3.094.39Source:Computed from various Annual Reports of Tawa Matsya Sangh.With a fluctuating trend for the first six years, production of themajor crops sharply declined in 2002-03 and 2003-04. On theother hand, production of local major crops showed a fluctuatingtrend throughout, though their share has increased in the last twoyears. The share and production of local minor crops shows aconsistent increase in the last eight years.The effect of production can be easily seen in the total incomefrom fish selling. Total income from fish selling as well as percapita per day income for the fisherfolk (in current prices) showan increasing trend in the initial three years followed by a decreasein income. However, in the last year there is a nominal increasein income in spite of a decrease in production.While comparing the simple growth rate of production andincome from fish selling, there is an interesting discrepancy inthe growth rates of both. Except for 1997-98 to 1998-99 and2001-02 to 2002-03, growth of income is better than production.This also means that fish produced from Tawa got a better priceall these years.Summarising Institutional Regimes in Tawa FisheriesAs mentioned, in Tawa, the MPFDC managed the resource fora long period, whereas other management regimes were in forcefor a brief period. As a result, a strict comparison of managementregimes is difficult. In Tawa, the dam-displaced people, whotraditionally did not belong to the fishing communities, gotfishing rights through a sustained struggle. Therefore, the im-plications of such cooperatives in terms of fishing rights aredifferent from the usual cooperative regime. The local people,who do not belong to traditional fishing communities, get a largerstake in the resource and hence a share in the revenue generated.Besides, by taking the initiative in rearing fingerlings, a largenum-ber of people from Tawa region have got additional employment


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