Finally, a comprehensive policy for houseboats in Srinagar’s Dal, Nageen lakes - Hindustan Times
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Finally, a comprehensive policy for houseboats in Srinagar’s Dal, Nageen lakes

ByMir Ehsan, Srinagar
Mar 31, 2021 01:17 AM IST

The administrative council under the chairmanship of L-G Manoj Sinha had met on Monday and approved the roll-out of the policy and guidelines for sustainable operation of houseboats

After a long wait, J&K government has come up with a comprehensive policy for houseboats in the lakes of Dal and Nageen.

The tourism department has now capped the number of houseboats in both lakes at 910. (HT File Photo)
The tourism department has now capped the number of houseboats in both lakes at 910. (HT File Photo)

Hundreds of colourfully decorated houseboats are moored to Dal and Nageen lakes. Many of these houseboats are decades’ old and with the passage of time have sustained damages and decay.

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Introduced by the British before independence, these floating houses made of deodar (cedar) wood with carved walnut interiors have been an important part of Kashmir’s tourism sector.

The administrative council under the chairmanship of L-G Manoj Sinha met on Monday and approved the roll-out of the policy and guidelines for sustainable operation of houseboats.

“In a bid to preserve the marine ecosystem of both the lakes, the new policy aims to regulate the functioning of houseboats docked at Dal and Nageen lakes by adopting the models of sustainable and responsible tourism. The policy envisages providing a pleasant experience to tourists and sustainable source of living to stakeholders while preserving the fragile ecosystem,” J&K government spokesperson said.

As per the new policy in view the carrying capacities, the tourism department has now capped the number of houseboats in both lakes at 910.

Under the new policy, the houseboats are required to be registered online subject to the fulfilment of various conservation parameters; within 30 days from the date notification of the policy. The houseboats and associated structures are required to be fitted with bio-digesters for scientific treatment of solid/liquid waste as per the approved design of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, besides ensuring availability of adequate fire safety equipment along with trained staff to be verified by fire and emergency services department,” a senior J&K tourism officer said.

He said the policy lays down regulations for ancillary facilities like kitchen, lodging, furniture, first-aid, electricity, power backup, sanitary fittings and shikara for navigation.

The new policy also allows repairs on damaged, dilapidated and abandoned houseboats, and revival of cruise boats and donga cruise.

After a sharp decline in tourism sector after August 5 and the pandemic last year, at least 134 houseboat owners wanted to surrender their boats and licences in case government didn’t come for their rescue.

They had earlier written to the administration that they will surrender their boats if the government provides them land at suitable places and construct structures like guest houses where they can live and also earn their livelihoods.

A committee of experts constituted under the supervision of the Jammu and Kashmir high court was monitoring the conservation of Dal Lake, where 800 of these houseboats are anchored.

Houseboat Association general secretary Abdul Rashid Kaloo said most of the houseboats were built between 1970 and mid 80s and they have a lifespan of 60 to 70 years. “Now, most of these houseboats are old, damaged and in need of repair. With this policy, the repair could be started. This is a very good initiative,” he added.

He, however, said once the policy is implemented, only then they can say whether it’s beneficial or not. “All houseboat owners are ready to cooperate with government. Now, we have to see what is in this policy which will help people and tourism,” he added.

Umar Nazir Tibet Baqal, director, Labaika travels and tourism services, said the formation of houseboat policy is a welcome step but unless and until the contents are not made public, things wont be clear. “Unfortunately, this policy was drafted last year when Covid was at its peak and was not released in public domain for deliberations.”

He said the matter is subjudice and policy can’t be formed unless and until court is not taken on board.

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