Fact Check: Was Biplab Deb really off the mark when he said ‘ducks raise oxygen level in water’?

Tripura CM Biplab Deb on 27th August stated to media outlets that he plans to distribute ducklings to locals who live near water bodies so they could rear ducks to produce eggs and the ducks also help in raising the oxygen level in the water. He mentioned that Tripura is not self-sufficient in egg production and he wants to help local villagers to adapt duck farming to meet the state’s demand.

CM Biplab Deb was attending a traditional boat race organised at Rudrasagar, an artificial lake at Tripura’s Neelmahal, the water palace. He stated that he plans to distribute ducklings to boost the rural economy.

As has happened with some of his earlier statements, the statement was soon propagated in the media and many individuals, even media houses began to ridicule and mock his statement. Their claim was Biplab Deb’s statement that ducks help raise the oxygen levels in water is wrong and ridiculous.

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Dhruv Rathee’s tweet

Even media houses wasted no time in dissing the Tripura CM’s statement. DNA ran a satirical article titled, “Quackery alert: Biplab deb says ducks can increase oxygen levels in the water bodies’. The article, full of duck-related innuendos and ridicule for the CM entirely dismissed the idea. Many other news articles too, including the one by CNN News18, were entirely dismissive of the idea and were styled as a subtle ridicule and dismissal of the CM’s claim.

While some of the news articles did mention that the CM was speaking about the rural economy and meeting protein requirement of the children in villages, the resultant reaction among readers was negative and dismissive. It was only a while later that truth began to emerge.

ANI quoted scientist A Debbarma of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education supporting the CM’s claim. He stated that ducks actually do help in increasing the DO (dissolved oxygen level) in water and farming ducks and fish together is known as integrated farming where the excreta of ducks also helps in growth of fish.

Soon, Deb’s claim was backed by many other experts and it emerged integrated farming is in fact known to benefit farmers in an organic way. On social media too, people questioned the kind of negative reporting and deliberate tarnishing done by media outlets and prejudiced individuals.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) lists several benefits of integrated fish-duck farming. These include:

  1. Ducks fertilise the pond by their droppings when given free range over the pond surface. Ducks have been termed as manuring machines for their efficient and labour-saving method of pond manuring, resulting in complete savings on pond fertiliser and supplementary fish feed which accounts for 60 percent of the total cost in conventional fish culture.
  2. Ducks keep water plants in check.
  3. Ducks loosen the pond bottom with their dabbling and help in the release of nutrients from the soil, which increase pond productivity.
  4. Ducks aerate the water while swimming; thus, they have been called “biological aerators”.

According to FAO, ducks aerate the water, means they help to mix of air in water, and as air contains oxygen, ducks do help in increasing the amount of oxygen dissolved in water.

Department of fisheries of Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, had conducted a study on integrated duck-fish farming. The study involved two ponds – one with ducks (treated pond) and the other without (control pond). Fingerlings of Indian major carps (Catla, Rohu and Mrigala) were introduced into both the ponds. The study showed that Dissolved Oxygen was higher in the treated pond compared to the control pond. The pH level of the treated pond was higher, which was in a favourable range for fishes.

Duck droppings are organic matter, they provide nutrition to plankton in the water, enhancing their growth, which is a high protein natural feed for fishes. In the treated pond, both the quantity and variety of plankton was higher. In the end, fish productivity was found to be much higher in the treated pond at 2884 kg/ha/year, compared to 1510 kg/ha/year in the control pond. Also, the ducks gave additional income in forms of egg and meat, which added to the revenue of the pond. After the study, the incomes were ₹45,285 and ₹1,79,520, and profits were ₹26,485 and ₹1,40,520 for the control and treated pond respectively, showing that integrated duck-fish farming provides much higher income for the farmer.

Recently, PM Modi had praised a tea seller who had innovated a method to make tea from sewage gas. The usual cabal of liberals had gone berserk ridiculing and dismissing the idea till news reports emerged with video evidence and it was established that what the tea seller was doing, is an actual small-scale innovation. It is interesting that while the regular cabal on social media is only too eager to accept theories like ‘aloo ki factory’ and ‘shikanji coke’, they mock factual statements aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship and self-employment for rural Indians.

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