Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to construct a 3-km-long road along the western shore of Srinagar’s Dal Lake to help prevent further encroachment.
Administration officials said “political interests” had previously interfered with anti-encroachment drives around the second largest lake in the Kashmir Valley, but this seems to be an “opportune moment” to end encroachment, since politicians are being held in detention since the 5 August decision to scrap Article 370.
Officials who didn’t wish to be identified said they would routinely come under pressure from some politicians in the erstwhile state who would halt the anti-encroachment drives to prevent alienation of constituents.
The administration has now allotted Rs 600 crore to the Lakes and Water Development Authority for the construction of the road.
Dal dwellers’ growing population
According to a 1986 J&K government socio-economic survey, nearly 2,500 families were “Dal dwellers”. But now, around 50,000 families reside in and around Dal, including hundreds of houseboat owners and their families.
With the growing population, a senior government official said there are greater chances of encroachment from within the lake as well as from the outside, even though the families are offshoots of the original Dal dwellers.
“We have taken action and even conducted demolition drives in the past. To prevent further encroachment, the 3.15 km-long road is among the first steps that the administration is taking,” the official said.
Other officials from the department cited several instances of encroachment, not only by dweller families, but also from those living in the adjoining areas. An official said that encroachment of the lake is done by filling the water with sand, which provides a landmass to construct houses or other commercial establishments on.
Tariq Malik, who retired as a senior official of the Lakes and Water Development Authority, said over the last three decades, families of the original dwellers grew in size, thus increasing the total population of around Dal.
Malik said the northern foreshore road along the lake, which begins at Taibal locality, a little beyond of the Mughal Garden at Nishat, had acted as a barrier for further encroachment from that direction.
The proposed western foreshore road will begin from the Dal Gate area on the south-western side of the lake, and will pass through its western shoreline.
G.M. Dar, vice-chairman of the lake body, told ThePrint: “We do not have an estimate of how much of the lake has been encroached upon. The northern foreshore road had stopped encroachment along that shoreline and the proposed road will do the same for the western part.”
Dar added that those living in and around the lake must be seen as traditional dwellers and not encroachers.
J&K administration officials agreed that there is a fine line between traditional dwellers and those who have encroached upon the lake, a consideration they’ve kept in mind during previous anti-encroachment drives too.