Shrimp farming is not as bad as earlier thought, says a study sponsored by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research. Aquaculture has neither increased the salinity of land nor caused large-scale deviation from agriculture, suggest the findings.

Researchers from the Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) conducted studies in shrimp farming states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. They found that 85 per cent of the shrimp farms were constructed in the saline shore zone where little agricultural activities are under-taken. Conversion from agricultural land was found to be only 15 per cent of total acquacultural acreage.

On the contrary, researchers have identified faulty revenue records as the prime culprits in giving a bad name to aquaculture. There are huge overestimations in the statistical data on agricultural lands.Almost all land in coastal areas, including unproductive holdings, are placed under the agricultural category in revenue records. However, there is no category to denote land unused for acquacul-tural farms. This explains the common deduction that there has been large-scale conversion of agricultural land to shrimp farms (Down To Earth , Vol 4, No 1).

Further, researchers have challenged the theory that shrimp farming increases the salinity of the land. However, they admit that there is high salination of the land and borewell waters in coastal areas. They say that the cause is not shrimp farm in the area. Salination is caused due to the proximity of the area to the sea, frequency of tidal flushing, nature of the soil, climatic con-ditions, ground water table and geomorphological characteristics of the locality. Shrimp-farming does not pose any threat to the health and hygiene of its moffussil population. In fact, the areas being cultivated for shrimp are providing better employment opportunities to local labourers, including women.

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