Hundreds of fish have fallen prey to intense heat wave and sudden fluctuation in temperature in West Godavari district. Heaps of dead fish dumped on wayside and bunds of ponds are greeting visitors to aqua-rich villages in the district. The fish markets at Akiveedu and Eluru city, flooded with huge quantities of dead fish, bear tell-tale signs of the calamity which has struck the growers across the district in the last two days.

The fish, ready for harvesting, died for want of dissolved oxygen in the ponds overnight. The vast expanses of the ponds were dotted with the lifeless fish floating on the surfaces. Although there was no official data available yet on the extent of loss in aquaculture, rough estimates revealed that around 5,000 tonnes of dead fish arrived to the Akiveedu market alone from West Godavari and Krishna districts in a single day on Tuesday.

The price fell from Rs. 30 per kg previous day to Rs 5 and even Re. 1. Some farmers abandoned the produce on the road side and returned home crestfallen for want of takers. Fisheries Development Officer Lakshmana Kumar told The Hindu that he observed 16 tonnes of fish dead in four villages under Undi and Kalla mandals alone during a visit.

Apart from drop in the day temperatures, high density of stocking, low water level in the ponds and late harvesting were the causes for the calamity, he said. The farmers delayed harvesting till June hoping for better prices as against the normal schedule from January to March. A kg of fish fetched them Rs 90 during the January-March period, but fell to 30 by June first week, dashing their hopes. Ramachandra Raju, Delta Fish Farmers Association, put the loss to around Rs. 300 crore caused by the calamity.

Dhatla Rama Raju from Rajulapet in Akiveedu mandal said he had buried four tonnes of fish killed in his ponds in the nearby fields. He invested Rs 75,000-80,000 on fish farming per acre and suffered a loss of Rs. 3 lakh. Venkannababu, another farmer from Akiveedu, said he had spent Re 1 on each seedling which he purchased from hatcheries and he failed to recover even that in the market.