“LAWDA Ne Loot Machayi Hai”


“They are so corrupt they join offices wearing plastic shoes and leave wearing shoes made of gold”

By Iqbal Wani

Dal Lake, globally recognized as the face of Srinagar city, is a unique waterbody with hundreds of houseboats. Tourists love to reside on the lake in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The lake has historically been one of the focal points of Kashmir civilization, and has played a major role in the economy of the state as a favourite jaunt of tourists. The Dal Conservation Plan report was made in the year 2000, and it has not been updated yet. Due to lack of hygiene and weed proliferation, the Dal is losing its charm, and nobody seems to take the responsibility for it.

Kashmir’s wetlands are depleting. In the Jhelum basin of Kashmir, the total area of the major wetlands (with area more than 25 hectares) stood at 288.96 sq. km. in 1972. By 2013, it had reduced to 266.45 sq. km. A major factor contributing to the environmental deterioration of the lake comes from the intensive growth of weeds, and human encroachment.

LAWDA was established in 1997. In 24 years, it has not been able to set up a drainage system in Dal Lake. Nearly 7,500 people live in houseboats on the lake. More than 50,000 people populate the small islands adjoining the lake. Household waste from these houses is inevitably dumped into Dal. For lack of a drainage system, no other option is available. Sewage and sullage is discharged directly into the lake. Continuous disposal of waste has severely depleted the lake’s water quality. It is alarming that foul smell emerging from the lake spreads to even far off residential areas like Soura and Dalgate when the water gets too dirty. A few houseboats have installed their individual tanks for drainage, but most are not equipped with it.

Encroachments, Illegal Structures Abound

The biggest cause of pollution of Dal Lake is the unabated encroachment and the illegal structures around it. As per the Master Plan 2035, the government has specified green belt for water bodies in and around Srinagar city. The green belt zones for Dal and Nigeen lakes from Dalgate and Nehru Park is 50 meters from the edge of the lake or building line. These are 100 meters from the edge of the lake from Nishat Park to Nehru Junction; Naseem Bagh to Ashai Bagh Bridge; around 50 meters from the western periphery of Dal Lake from Saida Kadal to Dalgate; and around 20 meters from Telbal Nallah, Nallah Amir Khan and other tributary nallahs. Green belts are the areas around the water bodies where construction is prohibited in order to protect the lake, and also the fauna and flora living there.

“Inhu ne loot macahye huvi hai”

LAWDA employees who did not want to be identified told KZINE that the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority receives highly generous funding, but work execution is poor. “Inhu ne loot macahye huvi hai. This is a very corrupt department. LAWDA officers allow constructions on state land. When someone complains about the illegal constructions, they destroy a little bit of structure for show off, take money and tell the owner to start construction again. There is no cleanliness drive for Dal Lake. They only take out the garbage and throw it in Dada Mohalla in Harwan, Ward 1, adjacent to Foreshore Road. Dada Mohalla residents have to suffer foul smell. When the garbage dries, LAWDA sells it as fertilizer,” said an LAWDA employee. Residents of Foreshore Road gave the same information about LAWDA.

A shikara wala said that the LAWDA officials do not demolish any illegal structures. Any action against illegal structures is like a joke. “Police and LAWDA employees are together in this. They are so corrupt that they join offices wearing plastic shoes and leave wearing shoes made of gold. LAWDA gives permission for illegal structures, then registers fake FIRs against owners. The owners are arrested for one or two days. The LAWDA officials demolish a little bit of construction just to show that they are not allowing illegal constructions. Then they allow people to construct whatever they want to construct. No illegal structure has been demolished fully till date or stopped from completion.”

Another shikara wala complained that the back side of Dal is full of weeds and garbage. “You can check it. Machines come but they just waste fuel. They do not do anything concrete.” When asked that why don’t shikara walas protest it, the man said, “We are illiterate people. How would we know about these offices? To show one’s fist to a blind man is neither a sin nor a virtue.”

The KZINE correspondent asked the shikara walas if the tourist make Dal Lake dirty. They responded that tourists never throw anything in the water. They are conscious of the beauty around them, and try to keep the lake clean.”

From The Tourists’ Lens

The KZINE correspondent asked a tourist, Samarprita Sarkar, who had come from Kolkata. Samarpita said that she is visiting Kashmir for the third time. “When I came here the first time, I stayed in a houseboat at the backside of Dal. The surroundings were really dirty. That view was not pleasant. I do not think people can help it. All the waste and the weeds can be cleaned only by the management. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the cleanliness at 7,” she said.

 ‘For the first time, we have deployed 20 machines for de-weeding at Dal Lake’

J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) was created by the J&K government to serve as a one-point agency to look after, manage and conserve the waterbodies and waterways of Jammu and Kashmir. KZINE spoke to Vice Chairman LAWDA Dr Bashir Ahmad Bhat to enquire about the sewerage plan, de-weeding, lily extraction, dredging, solid waste issues and houseboat sanitation at Dal Lake, and its bad condition at various spots. Here are excerpts from the interaction.

What is LAWDA planning to do about the garbage collected at various places in the lake?

Houseboat garbage has been disposed in the lake. From this year we will connect the houseboats. The survey of houseboats is almost complete. Proposals were submitted to connect them to bio-digesters. Before scaling up this project, we needed a pilot test. That didn’t yield results. It needed the gap of some years for sampling purposes. But this year, the houseboats will be connected. It is on cards.

Are there any illegal structures around the lake?
There is an issue of illegal structures. We regularly deploy our enforcement wing, and we have demolished more than 200 illegal structures. FIRs have also been registered against them.

Is any cleanliness drive going on at Dal Lake?
Dal lake cleanliness is a recurring activity. The cleanness drive started from April and will continue till year end. Currently LAWDA has five sewage treatment plants which can treat 36 minimal liquid discharge (MLD) sewage. The last STP was installed in 2017. Five STPs are not enough. There is a proposal to set up an STP at Gupt Ganga with 30 MLD capacity. The proposal was submitted by the Urban Environment Engineering Department to the government a couple of months ago.

How many employees does LAWDA have for manual cleaning of the lake?
Cleaning and de-weeding are separate activities. Cleanliness is outsourced – it isn’t employee-based. Almost 1-1.5 tons of solid waste are disposed of by SMC. For de-weeding and manual cleaning of the periphery of the lake, 400-500 employees are deployed every day through outsourcing. We have five machines for the purpose, but these are not enough. We have deployed 14 more machines through valley extraction. We have also some small machines. Aquatic weed is regularly cut down. We can’t cut all of them. We can cut only 30-40% of the weeds.

There are complaints from locals and also tourists about lack of cleanliness in Dal Lake.
As such there is no cleaning issue. There are weeds. 50% Dal water is bearable, B class water as per Pollution Control Board data. Since about 8-10 years, lilies have proliferated. At six to seven points, the surface area of the lake is infested by lilies, totaling about 6 sq km. Various factors determine weed proliferation, and these things will be there. For the first time, we have deployed 20 machines to deal with it. There is a scientific exercise that needs to be done. We are on the job. A few days ago we tried to optimize machines usage. We are also planning to intensify labour.


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