By Laxman Kafle Rupandehi, Mar. 27: Once a hardworking bicycle mechanic, Ramesh Chandra Murau has now become a millionaire thanks to his innovative commercial fish tourism enterprise. 13 years ago, however, Murau was leading a completely different life as an owner of a humble bicycle repair shop. With mere Rs. 2000 in his pocket, he started a bicycle maintenance business in Butwal Sub Metropolitan City -16 of Rupandehi in 1997, and continued spearheading the operation until 2007. Despite making a substantial living with his cycle venture, Murau decided to try his hand as a contractor for building private houses in 2007. With the contracting stint churning substantial financial benefits, Murau used to travel abroad for travel and pleasure, most frequently to Goa, India. During his Goa trips, he stayed in a same hotel, because he was greatly impressed by its service and was mesmerised by the resort’s proximity to fresh water ponds and delicious fish. He also realised lack of such services in hotels of Nepal and had a desire to open a hotel in Nepal with similar service. After returning from Goa, he started materialisng his dream. He first bought land and dug a pond for fishery in a corner of around 6.5 bighas of land in Harsiuri in Mayadevi Rural Municipality-2 of Rupandehi. As he made quick income from the fishes of his first pond, he increased the number of fish ponds. Now his fishery spreads in around eight bighas of land. He has also brought RCS Fish Resort operating within the same land, linking fisheries with tourism. Now around 20 to 40 kg fishes produced in his farm are consumed in his restaurant on a daily basis. “Different types of fish dishes can be enjoyed in the restaurant. It is easier to run restaurant business along with fisheries,” said Murau. “Whenever the customer needs fish, we catch fishes and sell them.” Investment reaches Rs. 190 million He said that he had already invested Rs. 190 million in his twin businesses of fisheries and restaurant. He has built the structure in an area of 8 bighas of purchased land. In the initial days, he had purchased 6.5 bighas of land at Rs. 45 million and later he added two bighas. At present, he has provided direct employment to 16 people in the resort. He plans to build a green park, RCC banner, swimming pool, garden and other structures on the resort premises in the near future. He has silver and mixed fish in his pond. Silver fish is sold at Rs. 180 to Rs 200 per kg and mixed fish at Rs. 300 per kg. He has been producing around 400 quintals of fish annually earning over Rs. 15 million in a year. Murau has already received a grant of Rs. 1 million through the agro-tourism programme under the Prime Minister's Agriculture Modernisation Project (PMAMP), he said. Under the PMAMP project, the government has been providing subsidy to the farmers who have initiated exemplary business ideas by investing in agricultural products. In particular, 50 per cent subsidy is available for agricultural machinery and equipment. Around four fish resorts are in operation and other three are under construction in the Rupandehi district. The government has been promoting fish production making a fish zone cluster under the PMAMP. The flow of domestic tourists has seen a surge in the area with its growing reputation as a fish production district, he said, adding that business has been flourishing with the increasing numbers of resorts. Fishes go to Indian market As soon as his restaurant came into operation, the global COVID-19 pandemic hit Nepal. Murau complained that the fish did not find a market because of the virus fear. At other times, 12 quintals of fish is sold daily, but he could sell only 4 quintals during COVID-19. He also faced problems in logistics and transportation required for the fish. The price of fish has dropped by Rs. 20 per kg due to COVID-19. At present about 30 per cent fish produced by Muraun's fish farm also goes to the Indian market. Traders from India come to purchase fish in bicycles or rickshaws. Apart from that, fish is sold in the markets up to Butwal, Bhairahawa and Narayangadh.