The fringes of Dal Lake have started freezing with Srinagar in the grip of a severe cold wave, but a political war of tweets between the local civic body’s top two representatives over who will clean up the iconic water body is heating up.
Two days after Srinagar’s Deputy Mayor thanked the Army for volunteering to clean the lake, the Mayor has said that it is “not the job” of soldiers to “venture into civil governance domains”. Both have been newly elected to their posts in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), with Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu affiliated to the Sajad Lone-led People’s Conference and his deputy Sheikh Mohammad Imran backed by the Congress. On Sunday, the Deputy Mayor posted pictures on his official Twitter handle of him with Army personnel at Dal Lake and wrote: “Me, my corporators, Smc official, Lake authorities, Army & local public of dal started dal cleaning drive of 21 days.”
In another tweet, Imran claimed that the Army chipped in after his request. “Clean Dal lake is a priority for all of us & thankful to army for volunteering with lake authorities & dal dwellers on my request & intervention of LWDA head. We need to sensitize all the stakeholders for cleaning the lake & keeping it clean too,” he posted. On Tuesday, Mayor Mattu took to Twitter to respond.
“With all due respect to the Army, I don’t think the Army needs to venture into civil governance domains. Not the job of the Army. Taking peripheral weeds out with a backhoe loader parked on the pavement and dumping tons of weeds on the boulevard road isn’t what we need!” he posted. Mattu also posted that the corporation has not entered into any official collaboration with the Army for cleaning the lake.
“All inter-agency “collaborations” require official authorization and MoUs. There are misleading reports about SMC having entered into collaboration for Dal de-weeding with the Army. There is NO such “collaboration”. Any reports to the contrary are factually incorrect,” Mattu tweeted.
“SMC has not entered into any collaborative operation with the Army for any cleaning, de-weeding operations in Dal. That’s the domain of Lakes & Waterways Development Authority. We have proposed a collaborative drive in peripheries with L&WDA but that’s still being planned,” he posted.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Defence spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia said: “To augment the cleaning drive, the State Administration had approached the Army and requested to extend a helping hand in this mission, to which the Army responded positively and undertook the pilot project.”
Col Kalia said that a “joint task force of Army, Lakes and Waterways Development Authority and Srinagar Municipal Corporation is presently working towards this mission and is currently sharing the technical expertise and infrastructure available”. “As a pilot project, this joint task force is working towards improving the present speed of deweeding, assessing the quantum and types of equipments and machines required for deweeding besides ascertaining the strategy to contain the contributing factors of weeding in the Dal Lake,” the spokesperson said.