In Kashmir, 37% houseboats vanish in last five years

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Srinagar: Houseboats, which catches the eye of tourists at the world-famous Dal Lake and other water bodies are craving for the government’s attention while the houseboat owners express concern over the embargo on the repair work.

Talking to a local news agency, Kashmir News Observer (KNO), an association concerned has claimed that the houseboats cannot be preserved for more than 20 years if present policy towards them will not be changed at the earliest.

Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association (KHBOA) President Abdul Hamid Wangnoo said that the number of houseboats is declining with each passing year.

“There were 1500 houseboats five years ago in the four major water bodies including Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake, Chinar Bagh and river Jhelum, but at present only 950 are existing,” Wangnoo said.

Blaming the government for failing to take proper care of the houseboats to preserve them for the generations to come, Wangnoo said, “I believe that after 20 years, there will be no houseboats in Dal Lake and elsewhere.”

“The people would be told about the houseboats then which may not be existing after two decades. This all is happening due to the stubborn attitude of the government towards houseboat owners,” he said.

He said that the renovation process of houseboats is banned for the past five years while the licenses of houseboat owners are not being renewed for the last three years. “The government is claiming to have started a process to promote the tourism sector, however, the issues pertaining to houseboats are being ignored completely,” he said.

Wangnoo said that already the pandemic has led to the suffering of people, but, the tourism players including the houseboat owners have been suffering seven months prior to the pandemic as the advisory was issued for the tourists to vacate Kashmir prior to the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s limited autonomy.

“Such a situation has never been witnessed anywhere even during the time of war,” he said.

“We have informed the government that the houseboat owners have suffered Rs. 1500 crore losses in seven months prior to the pandemic and the COVID later added to the miseries of houseboat owners,” he said.

“We have brought all these issues into the notice of Central as well as the State government, but nothing has been done in this regard so far,” Wangnoo said. “I have met a number of people at the helm so far, but no concrete steps were taken till yet.”

“We want our community to be compensated. Houseboat owners are dependent on tourism and due to the present situation we (Houseboat owners) have voluntarily stayed away from the houseboat business due to the official apathy,” he said.

“Until and unless our licenses are not renewed, it is not possible for us to host the tourists,” he said.

“We are ready to cooperate with the government in saving Dal Lake as houseboats can never exist without the body. We need to understand that houseboats are novel accommodation of the world and without houseboats, the government cannot promote the tourism sector in Kashmir,” Wangnoo said. —(KNO)

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