Srinagar, Feb 29, 2020-
The Dal lake dwellers fear they would lose livelihood and sense of belonging with the lake if the government goes ahead with its plan to relocate them to ‘secure’ the lake.
A group of Dal lake dwellers including houseboat owners on Saturday held a meeting at the Nehru Park to voice their worries and urged the government to pay heed to their concerns.
“We will resist any plans for eviction unless the government formulates a proper rehabilitation scheme that takes into account the concerns of the Dal lake dwellers,” said Tariq Ahmad, a houseboat owner and Dal dweller.
The government has often accused the dwellers of encroachments and polluting the lake.
The dwellers argue that most pollution is caused by the sewerage drains from surrounding areas of the lake. They buttress their arguments by data collected by credible agencies.
They allege that successive governments have spent crores of rupees to clean the lake but that has led to no perceptible change in cleanliness.
About a decade back, hundreds of dwellers were relocated to Rakhi Arth, some 15 kilometres from the lake as part of the conservation programme.
The government now plans to relocate more people living in the lake, but residents argue the move would render loss of livelihood.
They say they will cooperate with the government but the expert committee constituted by the government must take their concerns aboard before a final plan of action is laid out.
“The lack of seriousness on the part of the government can be gauged from the fact that it has failed to rehabilitate the first batch of people taken to Rakhi Arth,” said Yaseen Tuman, who runs a chain of houseboats. “We will wait for another month or so, if they are not properly settled there, we will give ‘Back to Dal’ call for bringing them back to their original dwellings,” he said.
The lake is a home to around 7000 families and is a source of livelihood for them since centuries.
It has 700 houseboats and 2700 shikaras.
Lakes And Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) has carried out many drives within the Dal Lake and its vicinity for demolishing encroachments.
The question remains how can the pristine glory of Dal lake be restored without disturbing the lives of its dwellers? (Agency)