Uttarakhand disaster: Abnormal behaviour of fish in rivers was a missed sign

Uttarakhand disaster: Abnormal behaviour of fish in rivers was a missed sign

Around 9 am, the residents of Lasu village saw shoals of fishes close to the surface.

We all have heard stories of how dogs start barking before a earthquake hits, or earthworms start pouring out of the ground just before the big flood strikes. Well, these are all signs of an incoming disaster and scientific studies have shown that certain animals can predict changes in the weather or alert us when a tragedy is about to strike. The same was recently witnessed in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, where the abnormal behaviour of fishes in the Alaknanda river and its tributary Dhauliganga, is now being seen as a precursor to the unfolding tragedy.

According to a report in The Times of India, fishes that usually swim in the middle of the stream were seen swimming along the edges. Innumerable mahseers, carps and snow trouts that had filled the waters, were not swimming too deep inside and were sticking to the banks, Ajay Purohit, one of the first to spot the fish, told TOI.

Around 9 am, the residents of Lasu village saw shoals of fishes close to the surface. Similar behaviour of the fish was observed at Nandprayag, Langasu, Karnprayag. Seeing a deluge of fishes along the river bank, locals had rushed to catch them while being unaware of what this actually meant. However, amid all the excitement, many also failed to notice that the clear green of the river had suddenly turned grey.

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Explaining the reason behind it, scientists said that the subsurface vibrations of whatever it is that caused the floods may have broken the sensors of fish upstream. Notably, fishes have a biological system, called the lateral line system, that helps them detect even minute changes in water movement and pressure.

“It’s very sensitive. The slightest disturbance can set it off, sending the fish into a state of shock. In this case, it’s possible that a sound preceding the flood may have been picked up by the fish. It is also possible that an electric wire or some electric source fell into the water and gave them electric shocks,” K Sivakumar, senior scientist at Wildlife Institute of India told TOI.

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Meanwhile, the death toll in the disaster has climbed to 32, while some 197 people are still missing. More than 600 personnel of The Indian Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed in Chamoli district to carry out search and rescue operations.

The disaster is the worst to hit the state since the 2013 Kedarnath floods that killed 5,700 people and highlighted the impact of the climate crisis and degradation of the fragile ecology.

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