Mufti Orders Realignment of Dal Houseboats

SRINAGAR – Describing Dal Lake as a world heritage treasure and a great splendour of Kashmir valley, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Tuesday ordered Lakes & Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) to immediately undertake realignment of houseboats at Doldum to preventing influx of untreated sewage from entering into the lake.  

He also directed LAWDA to develop a model housing colony with all basic amenities at Rakh-e-Arth so that Dal dwellers can be shifted there without any further delay.

The Chief Minister said this while chairing a high-level meeting to review the progress achieved under the National Lake Conservation and Management Programme (NLCP), a Rs.298.78 crore project sanctioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for conservation of world-famous Dal Lake.

Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Singh, who also holds the charge of H&UDD, was also present on the occasion.

On the issue of realignment of 388 houseboats at Doldum in the form of a cluster, the Chief Minister directed LAWDA and the Tourism Department to strictly implement the plan as it is critical to maintaining the water quality of the lake. “Unless houseboats realign, a common STP cannot be installed. With untreated sewage and refuse directly entering the lake, the enriched nutrient content will hasten uncontrolled growth of weeds in the lake,” he told the meeting.

Placing high priority over regular cleaning and monitoring water quality of the lake, Mufti Sayeed noted with concern the extremely slow pace of de-weeding, giving the water-body a very scruffy look. He asked VC LAWDA to reinforce all resources at his disposal in making Lake waters crystal clear over the next two months. “Manual de-weeding of the lake has to be a continuous process and needs to be prioritised,” the Chief Minister ordered.

On the issue of LAWDA being deficient in lake-cleaning machines, given the huge expanse of the lake, the Chief Minister gave approval to the purchase of new machines to expedite de-weeding processes. He also directed IGP, Kashmir Zone, to provide adequate manpower to Enforcement Wing of LAWDA so that a proper night vigil is maintained over illegal constructions in and around the Lake.

In the last three months, as many as 102 illegal structures have been demolished and 49 FIRs registered against the offenders.

VC LAWDA informed the Chief Minister that presently five Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) of 38.7 MLD-capacity have been commissioned with more than 150 km of sewer infrastructure laid along with house connectivity. He said while two STPs are state-of-the-art, the remaining three based on Fluidized Aerobic Bio-Reactor (FAB) Technology need to be upgraded for better nutrient removal. “September is the worst month when weeds are in full bloom. However, because of constant flushing, there has been no red algae in the lake this year,” he informed the Chief Minister.

Mufti Sayeed also directed Commissioner / Secretary H&UDD to expedite sanction to the proposal submitted by UEED for sewage disposal from densely-populated stretch from Nowpora to Saida Kadal, which is the main source of pollution to the lake at present. He also desired that a comprehensive proposal be framed for Rain Water Drainage by the expert agency engaged under NLCP.

The Chief Minister was also briefed about the need to include left out areas from NLCP which include Nishat to Batapora via Harwan and Telibal as well as sewerage from Khonakhun / Western Foreshore Road, for which DPRs have been prepared for onward submission to MoEF for re-appraisal.

Taking a feedback on Lake Beautification from Secretary Tourism, the Chief Minister was informed thatChar Chinari and Sona Lank inside the Dal Lake are being developed as major attractions for the visitors.

Chief Engineer, R&B, also apprised the Chief Minister about the widening of road alongside Boulevard under CRF, which will also have a dedicated cycling path on foreshore side. He was also asked to carry out renovation of the retaining wall of the Lake along the Boulevard.

Dispelling misperceptions about the actual expanse of the lake, VC LAWDA said the total area of the Dal Lake, as per satellite imaging, is 20.21 sq km. Sir Walter Lawrence, in 1895, had recorded the lake expanse at 25.86 km.

Asking LAWDA to conceive Rakh-e-Arth as a modern city centre with facilities of developed roads, power, potable water, school and banking, Mufti Sayeed asked the H&UD department to provide adequate funds to LAWDA so that Dal dwellers are shifted to the new colony, which is a precursor to effective implementation of the lake conservation project. “We also need to provide alternate means of livelihood to persons who will be shifted out of the lake” he said, while directing Chief Engineer I&FC to shift dredged out material to Rakh-e-Arth for earth-filling and development of the plots.

In all, nearly 10,000 families from 58 hamlets inside the Lake will be shifted to Rakh-e-Arth colony at Bemina and other colonies maintained by LAWDA. Out of 10,600 plots to be developed in a phase-wise manner, 1729 have already been developed and another 400 plots will be ready shortly. LAWDA has already released funds to Power and PHE departments for creation of utilities so that around 700 families which have shifted to Rakh-e-Arth have access to basic amenities.

In his address, the Deputy Chief Minister said the issue of lake conservation and shifting of dwellers to new colony at Rakh-e-Arth has been fast-tracked so that Dal Lake is restored to its pristine glory. He said the issue of shortage of technical manpower in LAWDA needs to be prioritized to effectively implement the conservation project.

Also present in the meeting were Minister of State for H&UDD and I&C, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Advisor to the Chief Minister, Prof. Amitabh Mattoo, Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Commissioner / Secretary, Finance, Navin Chaudhary, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Hassan Samoon, Secretary Tourism, Farooq A. Shah, Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, Mir Altaf, IGP, Kashmir Zone, SJM Gillani, Chief Engineers of I&FC, PHE, R&B and senior officers of the H&UDD department.

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