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Kashmir's smoked fish, a fading winter tradition

Kashmir's smoked fish, a fading winter tradition
Pollution causing massive decline in Kashmir's freshwater fish

By Nusrat Sidiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - Mohammad Ramzan, 55, starts his day early in the biting cold winters of Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed region claimed both by India and Pakistan.

By the time he reaches his makeshift shop where he sells smoked fish or Faeri, a local winter delicacy, a beeline of customers has already gathered.

Ramzan's family begins the preparation to make the traditional delicacy at their home located in the vicinity of the Anchara Lake, once a pristine water body.

However, the lake located in the capital city of Srinagar has become a cesspool due to years of neglect.

A recent study on the lake revealed that due to environmental pollutants, the lake has reduced in size by more than half -- from 7.53 square miles to 2.5 sq. mi.

Early in the morning, Ramzan's family unloads buckets of fresh fish that arrive from the market.

The family cleans it and spreads them on a patch of dry grass. A fire is lit underneath the grass to cook the fish.

Some hours later, the charred layer is patiently scraped, the fish is cleaned once again and then taken to the markets.

Ramzan stacks the fish on a round wooden basket, locally called Phott, and takes it to the market.

The delicacy is served with a sideline of kashur haakh (collard greens), tomatoes and radish.

"The customers wait early in the morning to buy it," Ramzan says.

However, the gap between the demand and supply has increased over the years, and hence the prices. The much cherished tradition of making smoked fish in winters is waning.

"For making smoked fish, you need kashir gaad (Kashmiri fish), but due to unabated pollution of our waterbodies, the population of fish is diminishing," Ramzan said.

He recalled that during his childhood, his father and grandfather used to catch fresh fish from the Anchar Lake, but not anymore due to unabated pollution.

"It is a stinking pool now, all sorts of waste goes there, how will the fish thrive in such polluted waters?" Ramzan says.

"Now everything has changed, this tradition is dying," he says, pointing to the pollution in the lake.

Only some selected spots in the city sell smoke fish now.

"This smoked fish is not just a traditional dish, it has a history and people associated with it. It cannot be written off," Ramzan says with a smile.

source: News Feed
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