M Afzal Sofi (Kashmir Images)
Srinagar: At a time when authorities claim to make strides to explore new tourist destinations in valley so as to attract maximum number of tourists, age old destinations seem to be neglected by few, playing spoilsport for the tourism industry in Kashmir. Houseboat owners in the world famous Nageen lake blame that the drainage system constructed by Lakes and Waterways Development Authorities (LAWDA) in residential areas around the lake have its outlets open into the lake putting tons of waste into it daily.
“The drainage system despite being under construction has been put to use by the households located on the banks of lake, who put their waste through it into the lake. The LAWDA authorities despite knowing the fact are turning a blind eye to this sensitive issue,” claimed Mohammad Khaliq Wangnoo, President Travel Agent Society of Kashmir who also owns three houseboats in the Nageen Lake. He claimed that there are around one hundred outlets of this drainage system open into the lake putting the waste from Lal Bazaar, Sadar Bal, Bota Kadal, Badshah Mohalla and other localities into it which jeopardizes the very existence of the lake.
“This is going on with consent and knowledge of LAWDA officials,” claimed Wangnoo. Wangnoo said that the deposition of waste material in the lake at several spots has turned into a cesspool and is stinking to the extent that tourist prefer to remain away from it. “This has affected our business largely,” said Wangnoo. He said that they are wrongly being portrayed as major lake polluters when there are other main agents causing of pollution to the lake.
“It has been rumored around that houseboat owners in Nageen and Dal are main polluters of these lakes and we have been put under severe restrictions that we are not even allowed to repair our houseboats,” said Wangnoo. He said that government on one hand claim to restore the glory of lake and on other hand authorities ordained to do it contribute to its slow death. He said that LAWDA, before constructing the drainage system had promised to construct the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) which has been under construction for several years showing no signs of completion.
However, the authorities of LAWDA rubbished the blames and said that construction of drainage system has been carried out according to the proper plan and it does not have even a single outlet into the lake. “Also STP is at the last stage of construction which will be put to use within one month,” Irfan Yaseem, Vice Chairman, LAWDA told Kashmir Images. He said that instead of blaming authorities, houseboat owners should first introspect their own doings as they are the people who live inside the lake and contribute to its pollution consistently. “They mint the huge sum from the tourists but shy away in installing septic bathroom system in their boats citing financial constraints,” said Yaseen.