Stakeholders term Govt’s new Houseboat policy as ‘biased’, question timing

‘Houseboats projected as major polluters of lake’

Irfan Tramboo
SRINAGAR, Apr 18: The new policy for the Houseboats framed by the Government has drawn flak from the stakeholders, terming the policy as biased and full of prejudices, having potent of pushing the houseboat industry down to collapse.
The major stakeholders while talking to Excelsior said that they have not found a single positive point in the policy that has been framed by the Committee of Experts (CoE), rather, it was observed that the Houseboats have been openly projected as the major contributor to the pollution of the Lake.
Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance (JKTA) Manzoor Pakhtoon said houseboats are the main USPs of J&K’s tourism sector which unfortunately has been neglected time and again.
“The regulations suggested by CoE (committee of experts) appointed by High Court with regard to houseboats is not in the favor of Houseboats and will be detrimental to their livelihood and survival,” he said.
The major flaws in the recommendations of the CoE that the stakeholders identify include that there is no provision for the renewal of licenses, no reconstruction or repair work can be initiated by anyone.
It is pertinent to mention here that the High Court had appointed a three-member CoE in October 2018 and was given the mandate of coming up with the measures for the preservation and the restoration of world-famous Dal lake, which was losing its glory to the illegal ‘encroachments’.
What is ironical here is that the CoE has also stated that one month notice shall be given for dismantling the houseboats that sink or get damaged, and if the owner fails to dismantle the houseboat, the LAWDA should do that and the charges of dismantling should be recovered from the owner.
“I mean, this is regressive; a policy which has got nothing for the houseboat owners, not a single positive point, rather the houseboats and have been projected as the major polluters of the lake,” Shamim Shah, Secretary-General JKTA told Excelsior.
The stakeholders said that the report filed by CoE is full of flaws and extremely unscientific in its nature and that the court must take cognizance of the same.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are more than 200 drains whose end point is the Dal lake and are openly flowing in it-causing pollution. Earlier, a study carried out by IIT Roorke stated that if the houseboats in Dal remain functional round the year with full occupancy it will not contribute to the pollution more than 3 per cent.
While questioning the timing of the report, the stakeholders said that the decision at this point of time is totally uncalled for as the whole world including India is fighting the Corona pandemic. “Timing is important here, it is to scuttle our means of protest as there are restrictions already in place,” they said.
The stakeholders from the Houseboat Owners Association said that they have always extended their corporation to the administration. “We have given our support to the Expert Committee for the installation of Biodigesters, but the process is still lingering, so there is no point to blame Houseboat owners for the deterioration of the lake,” they said.
What is more interesting here is that these stakeholders were not taken on-board when the same was conveyed to the Government time to time. “But they went ahead, without even consulting; the policy framed is full of biases,” they said.

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