Frame guidelines to register houseboats, Shikaras in Dal Lake, HC asks government

The Court however directed all authorities concerned that the number of houseboats in Dal and Nigeen Lakes shall not be permitted to be increased.
Frame guidelines to register houseboats, Shikaras in Dal Lake, HC asks government
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The J&K High Court has sought specific guidelines from the government regarding registration of houseboats, Shikaras and motor boats in Dal Lake here.  

Citing the suggestionsmade by Committee of Experts (CoE) in its report of 20 November, a divisionbench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar observed that acomprehensive policy with regard to the registration of houseboats, Shikaras,motor boats, bathing boats and other water-based was required to be framed.

The Court directed ViceChairman, LAWDA and Commissioner Secretary Tourism to consider the suggestionsmade by the Committee in its report.

"The Commissioner Secretary, Tourism shall place before usspecific guidelines regarding the registration of the houseboats," the Courtsaid. 

It directed Secretary Tourism and Vice Chairman LAWDA to holdconsidered deliberations on all recommendations made by the panel. 

A considered view, theCourt said, may be taken on the recommendations of the CoE which would includethe policy with regard to the registration, de-registration and surrendering ofboats.  

The Court ordered thatthe CoE's report and the deliberations of the Secretary Tourism and ViceChairman LAWDA should be placed before the Chief Secretary who may consider thesame and ensure a formal document was prepared and placed before the court byDecember 24.  

While the CoE in itsreport has recommended reduction of the number of houseboats and dongas, theCourt said it would consider this aspect on the next date of hearing.

The Court howeverdirected all authorities concerned that the number of houseboats in Dal andNigeen Lakes shall not be permitted to be increased.

After it was informedthat the Secretary, Housing and UEED were joining meetings with the CoE viavideo conferencing, the Court requested the Chief Secretary to interact withthe committee so that all matters which required urgent decision and resolutionwere resolved without any delay.

The Court issued the directions after perusing the report ofthe CoE.  Referring to the report, theCourt said there was an important matter regarding the retransfer of ownershipand registration of the houseboats.

The guidelines for theregistration, the Court said, would incorporate all recommendations ofthe Committee.  The CoE's report has alsopointed out several measures regarding hygiene, fire safety in respect ofhouseboats. 

The CoE has divulged that the houseboats and dongas areparked on the Dal Lake without any fixed order and the gap between the boats isnot uniform, some are moored cheek by jowl with barely eight feet between thewindows of adjoining houseboats.

"This has occurred becausethere have been no guidelines or policy for registration of the houseboats andno consideration about the optimum carrying capacity". 

The Court said the CoEhas made valuable suggestions which are premised on the willingness of severalhouseboat owners to sell their houseboats or to surrender the same in exchangeof engagement with some hospitality business somewhere on the land.

"Various ideas to setup aUnique Tourist Village at an identified site have been mooted on the lines ofBruges in Belgium," the Court said. 

The Court said the CoEhas referred to its discussions with the stakeholders and the willingness ofthe several houseboat owners to surrender the houseboats in view of the factthat maintaining the same was not the profitable business it used to be before1990.

The COE, the Court said,has directed that the Tourism department and LAWDA to hold detailedconsultation with stakeholders and come up with such policy which wouldfacilitate de-registration and even surrendering of houseboats.

Moreover the Committee,the Court said, has suggested that few of the houseboats could be convertedinto cruise boats provided that they do not pollute the Lake.

"Furthermore, it has beensuggested that the Tourism department would consider developing other waterbodies for transferring some houseboats to new sites".

The Court said thecommittee has also made valuable suggestions regarding reviving the dongasCruise, a floating restaurant which was introduced in 1980's. "This would besimilar to river cruise concept as existed on the Chao Phraya River inBangkok".

With regard to thecompliance report filed by the Director, Tourism Kashmir the Court said nothingother than the constitution of the Committee was disclosed in the report.

Senior additionaladvocate general M A Chashoo however informed the  Court that he has received the report fromthe Department regarding the GPS Mapping of existing houseboats.

"Let the latest positionbe brought on record in a proper status report," the Court said.

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