There is a ray of hope for dying houseboats in Kashmir. The government is now building a ship building
yard on the Dal Lake where houseboats will be built and rebuilt.
Built at a cost of Rs. 1.2 crore, it will be Kashmir's first ship building yard. The government plans similar shipbuilding yards to other lakes and waterways as well.
The move is set to change things for the better.
The 1200-odd shikaras, which have served as backdrops
for many Bollywood songs, have been the centre of attraction for tourists visiting the Dal Lake.
Many of the houseboat owners are fighting for their survival. Like the 75-year-old Azmim Tumaan, owner
of 75-year-old houseboat 'New Mascot' on the Nageen Lake. His boat is sinking and is desperate for repairs. After a government order in 1991, special permission is needed to repair houseboats
and new ones cannot be built.
"Earlier we didn't require any permission for construction and repair of our houseboats, but now we are facing a lot of difficulties,"
About a 100 houseboats have sunk in the Dal waters since that order, and most of the 1200 houseboats still afloat on the waters of River Jhelum, and Dal and Nageen lakes are past their shelf life.
Dal Lake, or for that matter, any lake of Kashmir
without houseboats is nothing; they really are the icons and hallmarks of Kashmir. Clearly steps need to be taken to preserve them, so that we don't lose an important element of her glorious heritage.