Dwellers near the Dal trapped in official net

Srinagar: Instead of declining, encroachments are rising on the embankments of the Dal Lake. Officials of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) said that violations have become common even after people have been resettled at different housing colonies. On the other hand, the people who live on the banks of the Dal say that neither have they been resettled nor are they allowed to carry out even minor repairs on their property.
“That is why everything is done illegally,” said Fatima Banooh, resident of Aisha Bagh on the banks of the Dal.
“I came here 32 years ago when I got married. At that time, I heard that the government is planning to provide us another space to live. Till date, nothing such has been done. We cannot repair our house nor can we sell it,” Fatima complained.
Fatima further said, “When we try to sell the house, nobody is willing to buy or offers a very low rate. We fail to understand what the government is doing about this matter of resettlement.”
Nissar Wani, who lives in the interiors of Dal Lake less than a mile away from the Mir Bahrin area, said, “Protests against the administration’s demolition drives are common in the catchment area of Dal Lake. The authorities accuse people of encroachment but the people accuse the authorities of creating a system of corruption, extortion and unchecked violations.”
Last year, the LAWDA claimed to have demolished more than 390 structures and to have booked 541 violators for raising unauthorised buildings or encroaching on portions of the Dal Lake catchment area.
“We have ownership of this land for more than 100 years,” Wani said. “But now we cannot build or repair our houses. It has been decades that we have been hearing about the relocation plans of the government. My father and grandfather talked about these plans. My father died at the age of 75 and I have spent more than forty-five years of my life here.”
Even so, the Dal dwellers say they have no problem leaving the place if they are provided another place to live in. “The problem is that the administration wants to dump us,” said Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Saida Kadal.
Secretary LAWDA Ghulam Rasool told Kashmir Reader that the authority is looking after the conservation of Dal Lake under the orders of the High Court. “The High Court has ordered that no house should be built in areas listed in the conservation plan. Eventually, we will have to rehabilitate the residents,” he said.
“We plan to rehabilitate the Dal dwellers in Rach Aarah, where we have 7,526 canals of land. The process is tardy because we are not receiving funds,” Ghulam Rasool said.