Fish vendors arrested in India

Saturday, June 28, 2003

LUCKNOW, India -- Residents in northern India waded through a sewage-filled river Friday, scooping up thousands of dead fish to sell to unsuspecting customers. At least 10 fish vendors were arrested.

The fish died because untreated sewage caused a drastic drop in oxygen levels in the Gomti River flowing through Lucknow, officials said. People living near the river said the color of the water had changed and become murkier recently

"The levels of dissolved oxygen in the water have gone down due to the flushing of sewage and other impurities.

This has worsened with the recent rains," said K.K. Sharma, a state pollution control board official.

Going into the river "can cause rashes all over the body, such is the extent of the pollution," said Pramod Agarwal, a skin specialist.

Still, some 50 people were seen wading into the chest-deep water, using wicker baskets to scoop up dead fish.

"I have collected more than 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of fish. We will sell it off," said Irfan Ali, who lives near the river.

Later Friday, police raided markets in Lucknow and arrested at least 10 people for selling contaminated fish, said Jagmohan Singh, a city council member.

Ratan Mani Lal, an environmental activist working with Social Scavengers, an organization involved in cleanup efforts, said, "The situation is grim because the Gomti provides most of the potable water to this city of more than 3 million people."

The water is treated before being sold for drinking.

Officials said fresh water was being pumped into the river and they expected the situation to improve soon.

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