The iconic houseboats of Kashmir may never leave the shores again following a directive from the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) the nodal agency responsible for controlling pollution in the lake ordering all houseboat owners to stop operations on Friday. The agency is acting according to a February 26,2009,High Court order,banning houseboats/hotels and commercial units allegedly responsible for polluting the lake. The court had taken cognisance of a Pollution Control Board report submitted on January 31 this year,which stated that the open lavatories of the houseboats are a major source of pollution.
Not surprisingly,houseboat owners are up in arms against the move claiming that it would seriously hit tourism in the Valley. About 1,200 houseboat owners have moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court,stating that they were not given adequate warning. The High Court gave a partial respite to the houseboat owners on Friday evening modifying its earlier order after conducting a special session on the request of the Houseboat Owners Association,who pleaded their cases without any legal counsel. LAWDA has now been directed to stop the sealing process for one week,but restricted the houseboats from conducting any commercial activities during the said period. The court also directed the houseboat owners to take measures to handle solid and liquid wastes as per LAWDA guidelines before the set deadline,failing which the sealing will resume.
The houseboat owners,however,question the fairness of the move. Since 1990 we have hardly had 90 days of work. For 15 years,there were hardly any tourists here. Besides,there is no work in winter and the Amarnath agitation caused a drop in the number of tourists. How much pollution could we have caused when we hardly had occupancy in the last two decades? asks Mohd Azam Tuman,president of the Houseboats and Shikara Owners Association. The order has hit us hard. The tourist season will start in spring and we will be left with nothing, he adds.
You have open drains from all the peripheral areas pouring raw sewage into the Dal. This is being done by the authorities. You have fertilisers from the vegetation; there is encroachment in the peripheries. But why should the axe fall on us? says houseboat owner Ajaz Ahmad Kotroo.