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Fisheries in India is a very important economic activity and a flourishing sector with varied resources and potentials. Only after the Indian Independence, has fisheries together with agriculture been recognized as an important sector. The vibrancy of the sector can be visualized by the 11–fold increase that India achieved in fish production in just six decades, i.e. from 0.75 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 9.6 million tonnes. This resulted in an unparalleled average annual growth rate of over 4.5 percent over the year which has placed the country on the forefront of global fish production. Besides meeting the domestic needs, the dependence of over 14.5 million people on fisheries activities for their livelihood and foreign exchange earnings to the tune of US$ 3.51 billion from fish and fisheries products, amply justifies the importance of the sector on the country's economy and in security of livelihood. India is also an important country that produces fish through aquaculture in the world. India is home to more than 10 percent of the global fish diversity. Presently, the country ranks second in the world in total fish production with an annual fish production of about 9.06 million metric tonnes.

With a view to providing livelihood, Shashwat an NGO in Pune,  is a grassroot initiative that was developed in response to challenges faced by indigenous tribal people including Koli Mahadeo, Thakars and Katkaris in the Pune district of India's Maharashtra state. 1253 of these families living in the valleys of the Ghod & Bubra rivers, were displaced by the construction of the Dimbhe dam which submerged eleven villages and destroyed cropland in another thirteen. Shashwat helps these local communities develop small-scale fishing activities in the dam reservoir, and improve agricultural production. The reservoir has been stocked with fish and the local population is supported to obtain fishing leases, boats and nets. The community enforces a number of restrictions in order to ensure that  fish stocks are replenished. Fish size and abundance have increased, as have local incomes, and the fishing cooperative is expected to stand on its own feet in the near future. 

Shashwat has received invaluable support from a number of individual donors as well as the National Fisheries Development Board and the Govt of Maharashtra departments of Fisheries, Cooperation, Revenue, Tribal Development & Agriculture, SWISSAID INDIA, BARNAS VENNER Norway, Tech Mahindra Foundation, Rotary Club of Pune Tilak Road & Manchar, and the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai have been their long-term partners.

Shashwat started organizing the displaced local, tribal communities in 2003 and tried to create livelihood opportunity through utilization of fisheries potential of Dimbhe reservoir. The local (tribal) community who resettled along the periphery of the reservoir were assisted in securing the lease of the Dimbhe dam in 2006 for managing the fisheries and fishing.


  • Support development of a sustainable livelihood based on fisheries
  • Organization of dam displaced small-land-holder farmers
  • Promote access & control of local populace on their natural resources through Coop. Society formation
  • Welfare of fishermen


Reservoir Fisheries in 2 dams:

Two dam reservoirs of the Kukadi Irrigation project are situated, one in Junnar block towards the north & the second Chas Kaman dam in Khed block  towards the south of Dimbhe dam in Ambegaon block of Pune district Shashwat wishes to start with

i) Manikdoh Dam in Junnar Block, and

ii) Chas-Kaman dam in Khed block,

In both cases scheduled tribe (ST) and primitive tribe (now renamed Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group) constitute more than 95% of displaced persons. 

Due to inadequate rehabilitation, the displaced/ affected villages have just climbed above the water line and are forced to eke out a precarious living there. Fishing is today controlled by private contractors instead of the displaced persons. Shashwat wishes to encourage & support these displaced persons to access the right to fish & to help them develop this natural resource for long term sustainable productivity with the use of boats, nets, fish seed and state-of-the-art aquaculture techniques like cage & pen culture, to come out of the morass of poverty while adding to the nation’s production of cheap protein for the poor in terms of fresh water fish.  


  • Good farm land was submerged under dam waters
  • Rehabilitation was poor and not done at all
  • Migration to cities for several months is necessary every year for survival
  • Other avenues for employment not available
  • With fisheries as additional employment to agriculture on available little land, economic situation will improve


There are four large dam reservoirs within 30 km or so of the Dimbhe dam in the adjacent blocks of Khed in the south and Junnar on the northern side, in which the same tribal groups have been displaced. Shashwat is looking for additional support in order to expand work in Manikdoh & Chas-Kaman dams with:

Fisheries in Dimbhe Dam

Nineteen dam-displaced villages, populated almost completely by tribals, are situated on the fringes of Dimbhe reservoir which has an average fishing area of 1,278 hectares. Shashwat started organizing the fisher-folk in 2003. In 2006, Kusum Karnik, co-founder of Shashwat Trust, helped the community to get the fishing lease. The then-Divisional Commissioner of Pune district saw the commitment of the locals and Shashwat, and decided to make a development plan for the region. He roped in the State tribal and fisheries departments, as well as the Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), Mumbai. Government, NGO and community put together a convergence of schemes, under which the families living by the dam waters were supported for fish seed stocking, more boats and nets. Swiss Aid India has continuously supported and stood by Shashwat and the Rotary Club of Pune Tilak Road, also helped with funds. The boats were built by the people, who chipped in with wood and their labour.

Today, fishing at Dimbhe dam is community-run and scientific. 214 tribal families (of which 89 families are of the Katkari Primitive tribe) run the Dimbhe Tribal Co-operative Fishing Society that harvests up to 27 tonnes of fish (Rohu, Catla, Mrigala and Chela) per year. In 2010, the total catch was 14721 kg, with 4381 kg Chela and 10340 kg Indian Major Carps (IMC), in 147 fishing days. 

The community has built 148 flat-bottomed boats, they own over 2000 kg nets, and has the use of a fibre-glass motorboat to ply the catch across the reservoir. Shashwat provided a motorboat for transport of the catch from the interior parts of the reservoir. 

Guided by the CIFE, the tribals now use state-of-the art Cage Culture, where fish fingerlings 35mm long, are grown in floating cages until they are 175 mm long. They are then released into the open waters of the reservoir, increasing their chances of survival. Since 2009 they have also successfully implemented Pen Culture to rear advanced fingerlings. 

Planting of green manure crop Dhencha on lands which get submerged in the reservoir waters, has helped to increase food availability for the fish. It has also helped increase food-grain production by organically fixing nitrogen in the soils when dam water levels go down & wheat etc are planted.

Aggressive stocking of IMC (Catla, Rohu & Mrigala) is done as advised by the CIFE. The tribal development dept. has introduced the Dimbhe type-boat to other tribal areas in the state. The fisheries department has supported Shashwat with boats and nets, fish seed, etc. Net size regulation and no fishing in the closed season are strictly maintained by the society. Back in 2003, at a meeting in Digad, all these fishers had resolved that they would not use poison or explosives for fishing.

The non-fishing monsoon months fall hard on the villagers, especially the landless Katkari and Thakar. So Shashwat have introduced rearing of ornamental fish – gorgeous orange and silver creatures. Sixteen more cages have been introduced for this, with NFDB support. 20 women have been trained in the upkeep of these fish, and have started rearing ornamental fish very properly.

The Dimbhe Fish Co-op. Society has in 2011-12 been able to provide employment to its 214 members, out of which 102 are landless Thakar tribals and primitive tribal Katkari.  The fisher-people  through careful planning and hard work have got a fish catch of 6725 kg Catla etc, and local varieties 2310 kg fish of ‘chela’ variety and 1731 kg of ‘Kolas’ variety, sold for a total of Rs. 441,025 during April 2011 to March 2012. Subsequently they continued fishing activity in the depleted waters of the reservoir in the summers, which prevented the motorboat from going for collection to all areas. Mostly walking and collecting the daily fish catch, they have been able to sell the overall fish catch of 4668 kg Catla/ Rohu / Mrigal etc, besides the local fish 68 kg kolas and 04 kg  valanz, in the period  April to 15 July 2012, which fetched them a total value of Rs 303,934. In Aug-Sep 2011 all gates of Dimbhe dam were opened due to very heavy downpour, leading to loss of large fish of weight 4-7 kg worth over 7-8 lakh Rs. With support of Village Development Council London, the work of replacing the rusted bottoms of about 60 boats of the poor fisher-folk is almost complete.  


There is a long way to go. The fishers say the mesh size of their nets is too small now as the fish have grown bigger. Soon Shashwat shall have the need of a small ice plant as the catch continues to grow. Four rearing ponds, of total area barely 600 sq mtrs, have been made, due to steeply sloping terrain. Shashwat need more rearing ponds and the people are clamouring for their own hatchery. 

Today, the reservoir is being managed absolutely on the lines of Community Based Fisheries Management (CBFM) and has become demonstration model in India as per Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization UN FAO. These communities have participated in CIFE-led action-research programme and developed state-of-the-art Cage Culture & Pen culture techniques to rear fish fingerlings. This cooperative has set net-size regulations, strictly observed closed season, and banned dynamite fishing to ensure fish-stock replenishment. Rearing ornamental fish– gorgeous orange and silver creatures has been introduced in floating cages with support of the National Fisheries Development Board. 20 women now fabricate glass aquaria & rear few varieties of ornamental fish which get sold in nearby towns and cities.


  • Survey of fisher-folk in each village, including their fishing boats/ nets etc
  • Promoting a cooperative society of fisher-folk
  • Sharing information about Govt. schemes and encouraging them to take the benefit of the same
  • Organize meetings/ get-togethers of fisher-folk
  • Exposure trips
  • Study of local fish species
  • Gather information of local markets and fish sales persons etc
  • Support for fish seed, boats, nets, marketing etc.Encouragement for ornamental fishing


Manikdoh dam was constructed before 1975. It displaced mainly the Scheduled Tribes. Rehabilitation was very poor and this was very unjust to the tribals as they lost all their good farm land under the water. Hence they do not have any option except to migrate for work. Even today one sees large numbers of labourers at the towns of Otur, Narayangaon & Junnar waiting for work, especially just after the rice transplanting season is over. Several times they do not get work or are cheated out of promised wages and have to sleep at the State Transport bus stand. Often they are forced to work long hours 7 am to 7 pm at paltry wages. 

Since villagers are not aware, of the Employment Guarantee Scheme and are therefore not taking advantage of it. From experience of the drawdown cultivation in Dimbhe, Shashwat  strongly feels that this could provide a good option for earning a wage and enough food to last them for the year. 

Mainly tribals  of Koli Mahadev & Thakar tribes have been displaced by the waters of the Manikdoh dam in Junnar block of Pune district. They have just shifted their houses above the water line. 

The affected villages are: Shivechiwadi, Rajur no. 1, Rajur no. 2, Undekhadak, Nimgiri, Kharkala, Khaire, Hirdi, Devle, Tejur, Tejur (Thakarwadi), Keli, Chavand, Uchran, Khadakwadi, Fangli, Gharghar, Ajanavle, Ucchil, Amboli, Bhiwade; about 23 such villages are situated around the reservoir. 

Two Fishing Coop societies had been registered on this dam:

a) Devram Lande Fishing Coop Soc, and 

b) Muktadevi Adivasi Machhimar Soc. 

Both fishing Coops closed down and open tender was to be introduced in 2011. 

c) Mauli Adivasi Machhimar Coop Soc was then registered with 51 members at village Tejur (Thakarwadi) due to intervention by Shashwat

Villages mainly involved in fishing are: Tejur, Keli, Mankeshwar, Ucharan, Undekhadak, Jalwandi, Hirdi, Kaiwadi, Rajur no 1, Rajur no 2, Shivechiwadi (Thakarwadi), Khaire. Approx. 10-15 persons are involved in fishing activity in these villages. Hardly 3-5 persons in other villages are involved in fishing.

Shashwat feels that fishing could be started in about 21 villages around this reservoir, with about 200-250 families. The annual fisheries lease amount for the Manikdoh dam is Rs 34,500 and the lease is vested in the new fish coop soc. Since the coop soc. does not have any capital for the lease amount and cost of stocking etc., they have taken the help of a private contractor. The fishermen   are going in to the water on truck rubber tubes, as they do not have any boats. They are not trained in fishing, they are not organized and ‘mahajal’ is being used. The area is large and there is no management. However people are willing to come together and are willing to take up fishing as a serious occupation.  The Shashwat team has already moved 3 times in these villages and the response is quite positive. People from these villages and local traditional village leaders are making phone calls to the team and expressing their interest. The present block level administration is also quite positive and has welcomed Shashwat to start work in Junnar block.

The Chas Kaman dam in Khed block of Pune district has displaced tribals of the Koli Mahadev & Thakar tribes as well as the Katkari primitive tribe families. The displaced villages are living just above the submergence line. These 19 villages are Wada, Kisanwadi, Walar, Avhat, Khoroshi, Dehane, Naiphad, Eklahare, Sindurli, Wajale, Dhavali, Shirgaon, Dhamangaon, Moroshi, Chikhalgaon, Majalgaon, Burshewadi, Darakwadi, and Thakarwadi.

There were 2 fishing coop societies in Chas Kaman dam. 

a) Sharad Fishing Coop Soc. had both Primitive tribe Katkari and Sch. Tribe Koli Mahadev persons as members. It closed down as they did not do their audit; 

b) Malhar Fishing Coop Soc. is a society of fishers belonging to the non-tribal Maratha and Bhoi castes. It is in the control of a private contractor who runs the fisheries activity in the name of the Fiching Coop soc. They have stocked the reservoir with Kolambi.

c) Bhimashankar Tribal Fisher Coop Soc, Wada, is getting ready for registration due to Shashwat intervention  

Fisher families: 

Many  Katkari primitive tribe families live in the ten villages Wada, Walam, Avhat, Dehane, Shirgaon, Mazgaon, Chikhalgaon, Karmodi, Chas-Kaman, Saturvasti, totaling about 150-175 families which are involved in fishing. 

The Koli Mahadeo & Thakar tribe families are more in number in the twelve villages Goregaon, Eklahare, Dhavaligaon, Darakwadi, Gunjalwadi, Bursewadi, Kahu, Koyadi, Sakurde & Tambdewadi. In these villages the Koli Mahadev, Thakar tribes and the families of Bhoi caste are engaged in fishing. More than 150 families of tribals from these villages are involved in fishing.  

These fisher families do not have boats and have few nets. Stocking in the dam is very insufficient. The Shashwat team has had meetings in the above 12  villages and people are very much interested.


Shashwat is helping the displaced & affected tribal fisherfolk & farmers of Dimbhe dam area and the communities of the manikdoh & Chaskaman dam areas to improve their livelihood. Specifically, Shashwat   works towards supporting the people in these areas. Volunteers wish to share their knowledge and experience with the fisher-folk and displaced families living around the dams within about 30-50 km and support their efforts to come out of   poverty and deprivation.