amous all over the world houseboats and major attraction of Kashmir tourism could soon become a memory as the authorities are not granting permissions for carrying out necessary repairs.
According to houseboat owners the ban on repairing and reconstructing of the houseboats is forcing hundreds of people associated with the business to wind up.
Imtiyaz Ahmad, a senior houseboat owner said, the houseboats which are now heritage are disappearing fast due to harsh govt policies.
“I’m unable to host guests as the bottom of my houseboat needs repair, I fear something tragic may happen if I will allow any tourist to stay in my houseboat,” Imtiyaz said. Adding that the government is trying to disband (Hanji) community.
“Dal lake is, because of us. If we leave here, there will be nothing left. The government will build more buildings here which will destroy the entire Dal lake. When tourists come to Kashmir they, come to see Dal lake not Gupkar or Rajbagh instead of preserving the heritage Government wants to eliminate it,” he added.
From past few years, Houseboat owners are not only changing their profession but they are also
selling their ancestral houseboats and are moving towards another places.
Tariq Ahmad Patloo, a local resident as well as the man behind the idea to setup floating ambulance service told Good Morning Kashmir that the last houseboat was reconstructed in Dal Lake about four years ago. Since then not a single houseboat has been reconstructed or rebuilded till now.
“The Government has banned the construction of new houseboats for the last 11 years because of this not only the people living here suffers, but also the glory of the world famous Dal lake is slowly detracting,” Tariq said.
“The last houseboat was reconstructed about four years ago here. Since then, not a single houseboat has been reconstructed or rebuilt here. The Government has spent crores of rupees to build a dockyard here, but what is the use of it? since it was built, only one houseboat has been repaired on it, and then it has been banned,” Patloo said.
Those associated with the business said that they believe if there is heavy snowfall, many structures may sustain damage.
“I grew up seeing this Dal Lake, but now this Dam Lake is not like before it used to be, it is getting worse day by day due to the negligence of the Government and the unfortunate part is that, government is holding we people responsible for all this,” said Lateef Ahmad, who is currently working in a security firm in London.
Assistant Secretary of Houseboat Owners Association, Abdul Rasheed said, “Eleven hundred (1100) houseboats were registered till the end of 1990s, but now only nine hundred and twenty (920) of them are left and the time is not far when you will not find a single houseboat in the whole
“We kept tourism alive even in uncertain situations,” Rasheed continued. “But the government doesn’t allow the industry to flourish. Since they’ve pushed us to the wall,” he said adding that these structures require immediate and there is a need of repairing them without any further delay.
G N Itoo, Director Tourism when contacted for his comment, didn’t received call from this reporter, despite many attempts.
Earlier, in October 2018, High Court constituted a three-member ‘Committee of Experts’ (CoE) for ascertaining measures required to restore and preserve the world-famous Dal Lake which is shrinking “due to illegal encroachment, untreated sewage from hotels and houseboats and uncontrolled growth of weeds”.
The CoE in its report recommended reduction of the number of houseboats and dongas.
Subsequently, the court directed all authorities concerned that the number of houseboats in Dal and Nigeen Lakes shall not be permitted to be increased.
Meanwhile the houseboat owners urged the LG Sinha to take necessary measures in granting permission for carrying repairs of the houseboats.