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Kashmir’s houseboat-making master struggles amidst ban, legal hurdles

Rehan Qayoom Mir


Srinagar, Feb 10 : Nazir Kawdari, the skilled artisan behind the renowned ‘Crown of Kashmir’ Houseboat, finds himself in dire straits due to the ban on new houseboat construction and legal complexities surrounding their renovation.

With a family legacy spanning generations in the craft of houseboat making, Kawdari, speaking with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) said that before the ban and the COVID-19 pandemic, his livelihood thrived. However, the current scenario has left him grappling for work amidst government restrictions and legal impediments in the renovation process.

“Before the ban, especially in the 1990s, business was booming, sustaining our livelihoods. I have been in this profession for over 40 years, following in the footsteps of my father and ancestors. However, with the ban and bureaucratic hurdles hindering renovation efforts, including prolonged court proceedings, we now find ourselves struggling to make ends meet,” Kawdari lamented.

He said that crafting a new houseboat typically takes around a year and entails a huge financial investment. “But since the ban, we don’t even remember the time when we made the last houseboat,” he said.

Regarding renovation work, Nazir said that even after obtaining legal permissions from the court, the Lakes and Conservation authorities disrupt their operations.

“The condition is such that I won’t teach my son or anyone else about this houseboat making as I myself am struggling for work,” he said.

About his son’s livelihood, Kawdari revealed that his son is currently involved in the tourism sector and is faring better financially.

The ban on new houseboat construction and stringent regulations on renovation stems from pollution concerns, dating back to the late ‘90s during the tenure of the Farooq Abdullah-led administration.

“Recently, after a lot of legal battles, the renovation was allowed in extreme burning or damage cases, that too after the proper permission from the court and other authorities,” he said.

One of the houseboat owners in Dal Lake told KNO that many people came to them, talking about relief and other things, but nothing has happened to date.

“When my houseboat was burning, everyone was there to watch the scene, but no one from the administration or anyone else has come to me till now,” another houseboat owner, wishing anonymity, said.


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