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Trout mania

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PESHAWAR: Known as the city of hospitality, Peshawar is a unique ancient city. Frequently visited by tourists to relish traditional foods including the mouth-watering chapli kebab, Peshawari rice pulao and trout, the latter is mostly brought from Malakand and Hazara divisions as a special winter food.

Travelling in the historic Qissa Khawani and Namak Mandi bazaars in the bustling city of Peshawar, the visitors can’t help resist the tantalising aroma arising from the chapli kebab and fried fish shops also serving traditional qehwa and spicy sauces in the winter season.

Witnessing a roaring business, the fish outlets are flooded with foodies enjoying the delectable rainbow and brown trout, mushka, raho, simon, pomfret, mahsher, and lobsters, which are brought from Ghanta Ghar, a hub of fish trade in Peshawar. The restaurant owners and even vendors receive a large number of orders from dine-in as well as take-away customers. They all enjoy the delicious bites with their loved ones during the peak of winter season.

“Keeping in view [Peshawaris’] pressing demands, as special winter offer, we have received sufficient trout stock from Swat and Mansehra districts,” said Ali Khan, the owner of a famous fish outlet at Qissa Khawani Bazaar while talking to APP.

He said, “The recipe of trout is very simple [and] cost-effective as well as time-efficient. We prepare trout in oil after its proper wash and cutting. Later, varieties of spicy sauces, pomegranate seed powder, salt and other spices and ingredients are properly mixed. Before frying it on medium flame, the fish is properly marinated for about two hours to ensure that all sauces are intact and colour is unchanged and later served to customers with chips, sauces, salad and naans.”

Ali Khan, who has remained associated with the fish business for 25 years, said that most people wanted deep-fried fish, some liked tawa macchi while others wanted grilled and baked trout for eating at shops as well as taking the parcel for their loved ones.

“Trout is my favourite seafood as its meat is full of proteins and vitamins besides [being] easily digestible,” said Khurshid Khan, a foodie. “Normally on every weekend I visit Peshawar to enjoy trout with my family. But today, I rushed to the famous Qissa Khawani to enjoy my favourite food to beat the severe cold that [has] gripped Peshawar Valley for the last few days.”

“When I was young, I frequently visited Swat with my father to enjoy the freshwater brown trout due to its aromatic taste and spiciness amid snowfall. This year, I did not go to Swat due to availability of the grilled and baked brown trout at Peshawar,” he added.

Dr Riaz Khan, children specialist at Government Hospital Pabbi Nowshera, said that there was an additional burden on the heart, brains, joints and lungs of weak people and children due to persistent cough, nausea and frost in winter.

Useful in cold weather

He said that consumption of the fish was the best and easily available choice to help reduce risks of these diseases. Terming fish as the best source of proteins, vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, phosphorus, iron and iodine, he added, “Consumption of seafood helps improve digestion, protects skin from dryness and relieves joint pains.”

Usman Ali, general secretary of Swat Trout Fish Farming Association, said that business of trout farmers had grown in winter following increase in demands of consumers and hotel industry from across the country. About 150 trout farms exist in Swat that had to engage extra labourers to meet the placed orders, he added.

He said about 2,500 people were directly associated with trout farming in Swat and urged the government to announce a special package for trout farmers keeping in view their substantial economic losses during Covid-19 pandemic.

“In case of vulnerability of temperature, the mortality ratio of trout remains high and fishermen suffer great economic losses,” he added.

Usman said one kilo of trout in the open market was being sold at Rs2,000 to Rs2,500 per kg. “Trout farming is a highly profitable business. Any farmer having 35 marla land and proper water inflow and outflow system can produce 2,250kg trout and earn about Rs2 million profit after 15 months,” he added.

He said Pakistan can earn substantial revenue by giving special incentives to trout farmers. Construction of new trout lakes especially in Malakand and Hazara divisions with provision for plenty of cold water reservoirs with ideal climate conditions can give a boost to trout farming.

The KP government had launched Trout Village Project (TVP) in Hazara and Malakand Divisions in 2018-19 under which 93 small and large trout fish farms were established, said Mohammad Zubair, deputy director, planning and monitoring, KP Fisheries Department.

“These farms being established under a 50:50 cost sharing formula basis launched jointly by the KP government and farmers, mostly in Swat and Mansehra districts under TVP, would be completed by June this year,” he said.

A model trout hatchery under KP government has been established at Salathanar valley in Upper Swat on 15 kanal land with capacity to produce six million fish seeds per year, he pointed out, adding it would start production next year.

Zubair said another project, ‘development of cold water fisheries resources’ costing Rs1,200m, a joint venture of federal and provincial governments having 40:60 cost-sharing basis, was underway in Malakand and Hazara divisions under which 297 trout lakes were being established.

“The KP government has recently approved ‘development of reservoirs for uplift of fisheries resources costing Rs500m’ project, under which 67 carp fish farms and model hatchery on 179 kanal at Swabi would be established from where fish seedlings would be provided to private hatcheries and [Tarbela Dam].”

With completion of these projects, he said KP’s fish production would likely increase to 740 metric tons from the existing 400 metric tons by 2024.

Threats to fish farming

Terming water pollution and climate change as a big threat to trout farming, the official suggested a comprehensive mechanism for disposal of hotel waste in Malakand and Hazara divisions. Throwing of plastic waste and hotels’ effluent drains directly into River Swat and Kunhar are extremely harmful for freshwater trout, he added.

Mohibullah Khan, Provincial Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, said the government had increased the development budget to record Rs8,298m for 132 ongoing and new projects during FY 2021-22.

Work on a new project ‘development of fisheries resources in merged areas’ has been commenced under which Rs220m would be spent in current fiscal year. A model cold-water research centre is also being established at Madyn, Swat with a facility of a fish hatchery where academics and young researchers would be facilitated to conduct research on different issues of aquatic resources.—APP

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