THE MAHARASHTRA government’s decision to convert Mumbai’s Tarapore Aquarium into an underwater world has annoyed both environmentalists and animal rights’ activists. The government had signed a joint venture with a Singapore based company, ATD, on December 2, to set up the project.
Environmentalists argue that the lives of more than 100 fishes in the aquarium are at stake. The fishes are kept in 18 major marine water tanks and nine major fresh water tanks.
“The Piranha fishes, which is a rare variety, and many other fresh water fishes are unlikely to survive the rigours of being transported elsewhere. They will not survive for more than 15 days,” said B F Chhapgar, former curator of the aquarium and a retired research scientist of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
It is said that the government consulted NGOs and environmentalists before proposing the project. Colonel Nagesh of the SPCA said he had warned government authorities that the fishes bred in captivity had lost their natural instincts and would not be able to survive for long.
The government is reported to have stopped further consultations with animal rights’ activists and environmentalists. Ramesh Kumar, secretary of the Fisheries Department said that the fears of environmentalists and NGOs were unfounded. “First of all, there are no rare fishes. As for the main contention about where we will transplant the fish, let me assure you that we have adequate space in Pune, Aurangabad. Some private parties are also interested”, he said. Kumar also eased fears that the some of the fishes would be released into the sea and that would kill them. “Releasing them in the sea would be our last resort,” he said.
The government’s decision to sign the MoU has generated a debate. The decision to convert the aquarium into an under water world was taken during the Sena-BJP rule.
“My contention is, why should the government construct an under water world at Tarapore Aquarium which is in the prime area of Marine Drive in South Mumbai. Why not, let us say at Gorai (Northwest Mumbai)?” asked Chhapgar.
The government is, however, excited about the project. “It will be a fascinating experience for people to look at the under water world through an acrylic tunnel.”