‘Organised groups, some politicians encourage encroachers’
‘Police officers take Rs 5000 from truckers and allow the truckloads with construction material around the Dal Lake’
Srinagar: The famous Dal Lake has been shrinking but not drastically and can be saved from further deterioration if Kashmiris collectively act responsibly to restore the pristine glory of the water body, said Vice Chairman (VC) Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) Dr. Abdul Hafiz Shah.
Shah said the present area of the lake, as per the latest survey by remote sensing technology has been recorded as 25.5 sq kms. “Out of which 12 km is water area and the rest are floating gardens and other wetlands,” he said.
However, First Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir Sir Walter Lawrence, in his settlement record, had recorded total area of the lake as 9.9846 Sq miles (25.86 Sq. Kms) comprising water surface is 7, 0346 Sq miles 18.21 Sq. Kms and 2.96 Sq miles (7.65 Sq. Kms) as Land Mass, fixed cultivation, habitation damps etc.
“LAWDA officials and their enforcement squads have to face numerous challenges to take on the encroachers. Shah said some organised groups, vested interests and some politicians are patronizing the encroachments for different reasons,” a statement said.
“We visualize the things, but there are organised groups, politicians with vested interests, who sabotage our efforts,” he said.
The VC LAWDA said they are going to expand their encroachment squads, but they can’t achieve the desired success unless as a society Kashmiris show responsibility and own this lake as their property.
He said the LAWDA can’t keep 24/7 vigil as most of the illegal construction does occur in the dead of the night, but the LAWDA has been successful in stopping the illegal structures. “Even we are not allowing repairing of structures,” he said.
He said the concerned police station as per the High Court directions is responsible to check the carriage of construction material into the area. “If that stops, the illegal constructions won’t take place,” he said.
Famous social activist and poet Zareef Ahmed Zareef said that before 1947, when J&K was a princely state, the Dal Lake was preserved by Maharaja like a diamond; its water was crystal and it was so pure. “But when the so called people’s government took over, all the political workers and agents usurped the land where they could grab. The political corruption started. The Awami raj brought political corruption and Dal Lake is dying because of this political corruption,” he said.
Zareef said since the inception of LAWDA, which was supposed to restore the lost glory of Dal, the LAWDA became a goldmine for all – from a lower level officer to the minister. “Everyone got his or her due share from this gold mine. Now the area has become a vote bank for political parties. So, in such a situation how would one expect to preserve this lake,” he said.
About the illegal constructions that still take place in the inner parts of Dal, Zareef said, “Our society is an ill society. We can’t save and preserve Dal Lake until and unless we become responsible citizens,” he said.
He alleged that the police officers take Rs 5000 from truckers and allow the truckloads with construction material around the Dal Lake, where the illegal structures are raised.
(With inputs from KNS)