Huta Village

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Sambalpur, Odisha Wetland Species Protection Not Available Not Available

Case Study (2009)

Background

Humma, a renowned historical monument, is situated on the bank of the river Mahanadi, about 40 km from Sambalpur city. This important religious place for Hindus is famous for an ancient temple of Lord Shiva, which has a unique architectural importance due to its slanting structure, otherwise known to be present only in the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Another differentiating feature of this place is reverence of kado or mahaseer fish as an incarnation of Lord Bishnu in his Matsya avatar.

The best season for sighting kado fish is between the winters (around November, after Kartik Poornima) and till the beginning of the monsoon in June. This is the time when the water is clear and quiet.

  Box 1

Basic information on mahaseer1

Mahaseer is an endemic fish species of the river Mahanadi, from which it has got its scientific name of Tor mahanadicus. This is a trout species confined to rocky upstream portions of the river; it generally prefers ‘lentic’ water habitat (i.e., rocky and swift hill streams with flowing water). Mahaseer is a Phytophagus species, feeding on phytoplankton and algae growing on rocks submerged in water.

Status and Threats

However the species is under threat and is endangered. The major threats faced are:

1. Illicit and exploitative fishing practices resulting in depletion of fish stock,

2. Habitat destruction due to pollution caused by industries and domestic effluents released in the river that destroy spawning grounds of the species, and

3. Changes in drainage patterns because of natural and human activities.

Mahaseer is a commercially important fish for its good food value, but the stock of this species is declining day by day. Now the Fisheries Department is also proposing a project for artificial rearing of this species for commercial production in Sambalpur.

Humma is a very distinctive place where the community is protecting an endangered, endemic and commercially important fish species due to religious beliefs. A stretch in and around the temple is protected by the villagers of Huta.

Humma is a very dynamic system, due to the continuously flowing river stream. Though we are concentrating on efforts taken by community in conservation of mahaseer, the area seemed to be important as a suitable habitat for other wild animals too. Local people indicated occurrence of jungle cat, Indian otter, jackal and various water birds.

The stretch of Mahanadi in Humma in particular represents a suitable habitat for trout like Mahaseer owing to rocky streams with flowing waters. Local people relate an ancient folk tale of a fisherman and his wife who turned into stone while cutting the kado fish. There is a monument on an island opposite the temple, where statues of this fisherman and his wife are present. The discussion with local fishermen revealed that fishermen generally avoid catching these fishes. If they do get any kado fish, they release it back into the river. Catching or hurting these fishes is considered a sin.

The most important role played in conservation is that of the fisherfolk in the village who do not fish for mahaseer, despite its commercial importance. The entire village through the temple committee is involved in decisions about the river stretch and the temple. Since Humma temple is a monument of archeological importance, the Department of Tourism and Department of Archeology are also concerned about the conservation effort. Considering that the high concentration of fish is one of the major attractions for the devotees visiting the temple, the Tourism Department is interested in retaining this traditional practice. The devotees feed bhog (temple offerings) to these fish, considered an act of virtue. The best season for sighting kado fish is from winter (after Kartik Poornima) to the starting of the monsoon, when the water is clear and quiet.

In addition to the mahaseer fish, this area also harbours some rare species like Indian otter. The local people, especially the fisherfolk community, are closely associated with the otter, since otters help them to catch fish. Therefore it is important to map the status of otters in this area.

However, the observation of local people, especially fishermen, is that the population of kado fish is declining. Therefore the question is how population of this species is declining, despite these protection efforts. According to them the main reason for fish population decline is overfishing in upstream and downstream areas where these fishes move. In Humma there is no demarcation zone for protection: the fishermen in this village generally avoid catching mahaseer, while the fish in the part of the river in front of the temple are considered as sacred.

The state government is also interested in declaring this area as a sanctuary for mahaseer. The Deputy Director of Fisheries had shown interest in this; however the role of the key actors— the local fishermen community—in this system has not been sketched out. The state government is also interested to develop this place as a potential tourist spot; the proposal for development of a tourist park is already sanctioned.

  This case study has been contributed by Smita Ranjane of Vasundhara and Jigyasu Panda of MASS in October 2006.

Smita Ranjane
Vasundhara
Plot no. 15
Sahid Nagar, Bhubaneshwar
Pin 751007
Tel: 0674-2542011/12
Email: [email protected]

Jijnyasu Panda
MASS, Sambalpur
Gangadhar Meher College,
Sambalpur
Tel: 09937467746
Email: [email protected]

1 Source: Personal communication with Dr. G.B. Parida, Deputy Director, Fisheries Department of Orissa, and Shri P.K. Dar, Research Officer, Fisheries Department of Orissa, in October 2006.

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

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Related Information

Traditions of Animal Conservation in Odisha

An overview of the conservation attempts at Humma temple and other places in Odisha.

Humma, a haven for fish

An article about the kado fish conservation at the Humma temple.

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