Fish population decline in Kabul River

Sabir Hussain

The Kabul River, a major waterway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has long been a vital source for irrigation, agriculture, power generation, and fishing in the region. However, the river’s water quality has deteriorated significantly due to the direct influx of wastewater from various industries situated in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda districts. This pollution has adversely affected the aquatic flora and fauna, particularly fish, having significant economic importance.

In a research conducted by the Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Peshawar, alarming findings have emerged regarding the deteriorating state of the Kabul River and it’s devastating impact on the fish population and local fishermen. The fish population in the Kabul River has experienced a sharp decline, primarily due to pollution and overfishing. The collective contribution of pollution and pesticides to the fish decline is estimated to be above 60%. Illegal fishing practices such as using electric current and dynamite, account for approximately 25% of the decline, while legal fishing activities contribute only 15%.

The pollution from industrial and municipal wastewater discharge is a major threat to fish population. The rapid industrial growth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 1930 has resulted in an increase in industrial estates along the Kabul River. These industrial units, including textile mills, tanneries, and paper factories, are directly dumping their effluent waste into the river, negatively impacting the dissolved oxygen level necessary for aquatic fauna. Additionally, solid waste disposal and untreated effluents from various districts have further contributed to the pollution burden.

Illegal fishing practices such as using electric current and dynamite have also played a significant role in the decline of fish population. “As revealed by the study, we have witnessed a concerning shift in fishing practices, where the safer method of netting has declined from 70% to 20% over the time. In contrast, the use of electric current for fishing has increased from 5% to 10%, compounding the issue at hand. It is imperative to address this alarming trend and promote sustainable fishing techniques for the well-being of our rivers and the prosperity of our communities,” Abdullah – an environmental researcher, says.

The declining fish population in the Kabul River has far-reaching consequences for communities, dependent on fishing as a source of livelihood. Approximately, 1,000 villages and 20 cities along the river are directly or indirectly reliant on the river’s resources. The local fishermen and laborers have witnessed a decline in their catch and economic prosperity. “As the fish population in the Kabul River declines, our communities’ prosperity follows suit, but through the revival of our fish, we will breathe new life into our community’s spirit, securing a prosperous symphony for generations to come,” states Gul Saman, a local fisherman.

These alarming statistics underscore the urgent need for an immediate action to preserve the Kabul River’s ecosystem and protect the livelihood of the local fishermen. Therefore, stricter regulations, improved wastewater treatment facilities, and sustainable fishing practices are crucial in restoring the river’s balance. More importantly, collaboration between the government, environmental agencies and communities is also vital for a sustainable future of the area.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and Editor S&T of Sunrise Today. He covers science & technology, environment, agriculture, climate change, global warming, energy crisis and public health. He can be contacted at:

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