The next time you visit Dal lake here, your wallet will come away lighter as the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to levy 'usage' charges on all visitors, local, domestic or foreign, who go for a boat ride or indulge in water sports on the lake.
February 1 onwards, official booths would be opened on 16 jetties on the lake, and entry tickets costing Rs 10 each would be issued. Officials have said the revenue will be used for the maintenance of the lake.
According to experts, the famous water body has shrunk in size, losing nearly three km to land mass and encroachment.
Following many public interest litigations and directions from the Supreme Court, a Rs 650 conservation project is currently underway.
"If you want the lake, this needs to be done. We are getting the capital from the project aimed to save the lake, but we want people to cover the maintenance cost," Irfan Yasin, vice-chairman of the Lakes and Waterways development Authority said.
"The charges will be nominal. We will ask adults entering from various ghats bordering the lake to pay Rs 10, and around 25,000 households connected with the sewerage network constructed by the authority will be asked to pay Rs 100 each per month," he said.
The authority has decided to charge hotels Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 per month, depending on the number of rooms and the tourist season.
"We are handling your sewage and our sewage treatment plants (STP) treat your waste, so this is the least we ask," Yasin said.
Besides, houseboat owners will have to shell out Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, while shikara owners will be asked to pay Rs 300 per month. The charges have already come into effect from January 1, and would be reviewed annually.
The LAWDA has laid over 150km sewer lines in and around the lake, connected to various STPs, for the protection of Dal lake. According to various estimates, the authority treats 1.5tonne garbage in the form of plastic bottles, polythene and other unwanted materials from the lake every day.
This is among the series of stringent steps taken by the government in lake conservation this year. In October 2013, the government had sealed 180 hotels in Srinagar, asking the owners to install in-house STPs in buildings with more than 19 rooms.
However, many people have expressed doubts over the imposition of the charges. "There are many entry points to the lake. How will they charge at all points?" Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Dalgate.