Dal Cleanup: Houseboats First To Go

28 February 2009
The Times of India

Srinagar: The typical holiday in Kashmir invariably meant a few nights on a houseboat on the Dal, sipping kahwa on the deck and slurping sumptuous wazwan in a cabin furnished entirely in walnut wood. Not anymore, the Jammu & Kashmir high court has decreed. It has asked the state government to shut down roughly 1,200 houseboats moored along the shores of the lake starting Friday, until the owners ensure that Srinagar’s centrepiece isn’t being poisoned by houseboat waste. Sewage from houseboats and waste from hotels and homes along the Dal empty into the lake. For years, conservationists have cried themselves hoarse about the pollution killing the Dal. They also argued that the ornate, carved cedar houseboats that make a living off the lake are turning it into a weed-clogged swamp. The lake has shrunk by more than half to 11sqkm and lost 12m in depth in two decades. The court issued the directive on Friday in response to a recent Pollution Control Board report, which said open houseboat lavatories were a problem. A bench comprising Justices Nisar Ahmad Kakru and Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain asked the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority and the Srinagar municipal corporation to implement the order and report progress every day. The head of the Houseboats and shikara owners’ association, Mohammed Azam Tuman said they would construct a wastebin.