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How floods help inland fishermen

Deepa H Ramakrishnan

Number of Hilsa fish coming to the river from the sea has increased

SCIENTISTS IN THE MAKING: K. Nagendra Prasad and G. Madhu Babu, students of the Government Middle School Farampeta, Yanam region of Pondicherry. — Photo: T. Singaravelou

Pondicherry: They are studying in VII standard but do not know English names or flavours of ice creams they like.

Gunepi Madhu Babu likes gulabi (pink-strawberry) flavoured ice cream and Kamidi Nagendra Prasad likes thelupu (vanilla) flavoured ice cream. While Nagendra Prasad is the son of a farmer, his friend and classmate Madhu Babu is the son of a worker. They live in Farampeta on the bank of River Godavari in Yanam region of Pondicherry.

They understand a little bit of English and can respond at times. But ask them about "pulasa chapulu" (hilsa fish) and like a wound up clock they will tell you how the number of "chapulu" increases when there is an increased flow of waters in the river. The two, along with classmates S. Raju, N. Durgabhavani and P. Veerababu, from Government Middle School, Farampeta, have done a study on how floods, which are usually considered a problem, help the inland fishermen in their village.

"Only during floods, hilsa fish come to the river from the sea to lay eggs and when more water flows, the number of fish increases. In our study, between September and November 2004 and from September to October 2005 we estimated the number of fish caught and found a marked increase in 2005 when there were more floods.

"We say that though floods are bad, in our region they have helped fishermen and also the vegetable farmers in low-lying areas of Farampeta by bringing in silt rich in minerals. Also floods help to charge groundwater," said the two students, who have been selected to participate in the National Children's Science Congress (NCSC) along with five other teams from the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

"The children used to visit every evening the local fish market in Farampeta and keep a tab on the number of fish. When the announcement for the project came, the children were very much interested in doing it because it was about something that they saw every day - the river and the fish", said Palepu Naga Prasad, their science teacher, who has guided them through the project.

These children like others from Government Middle School Ariyankuppam (transpiration in different plants), St Theresa High School Mahe (different type of growth of plants in different water), and at the higher secondary level, Cluny Girls School (comparative study on quality of drinking water), Government School Indira Nagar (low cost irrigation) and Maraimalai Adigal Government School Embalam (rate of percolation through different soils) are excited over going to Bhuvaneshwar between December 27 - 31 and present their projects at the National Children's Science Congress.

"The NCSC aims at creating scientific temper among the children. Earlier we used to get a lot of projects that were less practical in nature. The experiments would not be related to daily life but this year the children, especially those from rural areas have shown quite a bit of interest," said Raghunath, scientist, Pondicherry Science Forum, which along with the State Training Centre under the Department of Education, are the implementing agencies for the NCSC in Pondicherry.

"This year's topic was water and a total of six teams have been selected from 67 projects that were presented from the whole of Pondicherry. Twentyfour projects reached the state-level programme where the children were asked to make actual presentation of the scientific projects that they had done. The only thing in the NCSC is that there are no prizes given to children even at the national level. In some States, the teams that are selected for the state-level are given prizes but not so in Pondicherry, said Parasuraman, state coordinator, NCSC.

On the second day of the State-level programme, the children were taken on field trips to Ousteri Lake where the Deputy Conservator of Forests, P. Devaraj, explained to them about migratory birds. They also visited Thiruvakkarai and saw the fossil woods and the Ponlait milk processing plant.

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