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Fear grips locals as water in Dal Lake rises

india Updated: Sep 16, 2014 08:57 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times
Jammu and Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir University campus opened its gates on Monday, as there was rise in the water level in the famous Dal Lake.

The university departments are filled with thousands of people, mostly the Dal dwellers, who have lost their homes in the floods affecting lakhs of people across the Valley.

The lake which is spread over 11 square kilometres was swollen after waters from the Jhelum crossed over the gates separating the two biggest water bodies in the area.

"On Sunday night, water slowly began to rise. All our vegetation was gone,'' said Ghulam Ahmad.
The vegetable growers grow their crops on floating gardens in the interiors of the lake.

"Tomatoes, brinjals, even the famous kashmiri chillies, everything is gone,'' he added.

The vegetable vendors living on the foreshore road in mostly brick and mud houses, had to move out with whatever little was left in their submerged homes.

"First we made makeshift tents just next to our homes but came on the university campus, when the road was filled with water,'' he added.

As the pristine waters of the lake turned muddy with silt and filth, shikaras, houseboats began to turn turtle. "We were out all night, as the water rose we had to loosen the anchors or there was a good chance that the boats would collapse,'' said Mohammad Subhan, who owns a houseboat.

While some of the boats made it, others turned turtle. ``People whose boats were old or where the flow of water was more could not save their boats,'' he added.

The Dal Lake has crossed its banks and the water has inundated the famous Boulevard Road, where most of the three or four stars hotels are located.

The hotels, like Shah Abass, Hemal, Shehan Shah, which a few weeks back were bustling with life look lifeless. The entrance to the hotels is submerged and the staff has moved on the upper floors.

"There is no demarcation for the lake now, the lake is everywhere,'' said Asfaq Sidiq, owner of hotel Pine grove on Boulevard.

Meanwhile from the pleasure rides, the world famous shikaras or small wooden boats have become the life savers. Seen mostly in the Dal Lake, they came handy for the locals who were desperate to save their kin when the Jhelum was in spate.

Manzoor Ahmed, who runs a shoe shop in Bemina area in Srinagar, pleaded with a shikarawala living at Qamarwari Chowk for a boat when his colony was submerged.

Bemina and Qamarwari were inundated after the Jhelum breached embankment near Chatabal area. The two colonies with mostly three-storied houses were submerged in no time.

"I knew the shikarawala and when I told him about the condition of the area, he offered his help,'' said Ahmad.

From Monday morning till date, Ahmad with a group of friends have been doing rounds in areas like Qamarwari and Bemina taking supplies and rescuing people.

"These Shikaras have turned into our life boats,'' said Ahmad.

Near the Dal Lake, the shikaras proved a boon for the worst-hit Rajbagh. "The local police station had arranged for some shikaras. We pleaded for one as 25 members of our family were stranded at Rajbagh in the attic of the fourth floor of their house,'' said Farooq Ahmad, a resident of KohnaKhan near the Dal Lake.

"It was a local boy who knew how to row who helped us. We had to cross over the Jhelum near Rajbagh almost a dozen times, but the boy showed courage,'' Farooq said.

"The shikarawala almost slipped into the water once, but he was a swimmer and swam to safety. If it wasn't for him, none in our family would have been alive,'' he said.

Meanwhile there is anger in the university relief camp. The inmates are angry that the government has not sent any relief material to the areas.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who is trying to take the relief operations into his own hands, promises that water will be pumped out in the coming days . ``Pumping operations have started in various areas with whatever pumps we have,'' Abdullah replied to a message sent by Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, the government has issued orders for employees in emergency services like health, public works to report to duties wherever possible.''

As water level recedes, diseases are a big threat in Kashmir. According to officials, the water has turned fetid and has to be pumped out of the residential areas.

Even as the government officials and army claimed to have rescued 1.8 lakh people and a much higher number was rescued by the locals, over a lakh people are still stranded in their half-submerged homes across the city.