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Gearing Up for the Annual Fish Kill

Gearing Up for the Annual Fish Kill

Four dead fish. Photo: Nityanand Jayaraman

“Unless saved by the sea, at this rate, expect a significant fish kill in Adyar in the next few days,” Palayam anna muttered to himself.

We only wake up after disaster strikes, and slip back into slumber soon after. As Chennai-ites, we know that only too well. Fish kills and foaming seas are routine occurrences. But our friends in the media never fail to appear surprised every time we hear news of dead fish in the Adyar. That shouldn’t be news. A year without a fish kill is newsworthy.

Every annual fish kill brings up the same trite questions of what could be the cause. It’s not as though the city has stopped shitting in the river that the cause would be any different this summer.

This last week has been a build-up for the big kill. Since the last full moon, the artificially opened river mouth along the southern bank steadily shrank as it crept northwards pushed by the thendi thanni (southerly currents). Three days ago, the mouth was sealed off and for at least two days, the fish trapped behind the closed river mouth have been stewing in a still, shallow cesspool.

This morning, Palayam Anna and I met one fisherman who netted 200 kg of oxygen-starved fish from the placid shit-waters of the blocked estuary yesterday. Today, the river’s edge was littered with dead and dying fish – not yet in numbers sufficient to rouse us from slumber.

A JCB earthmover has been idly parked near the Broken Bridge for three days now. Palayam and I discussed it, but we don’t know what it’s waiting for. The isthmus separating the river from the sea waxes and wanes with the moon’s cycle.

A view of the isthmus. Photo: Nityanand Jayaraman

Perhaps the JCB is waiting for the patch separating the river from the sea to narrow to a thin sliver by the next new moon (August 8). There would be less work to be done excavating a channel for the river’s exit.

By that time, though, the conditions may ripen for a newsworthy fish kill. Until then, let’s return to slumber.

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