Only 750 historic houseboats remain, and their history is quickly disappearing
Only 750 historic houseboats remain, and their history is quickly disappearing

Srinagar: Often referred to as the “jewel of Kashmir tourism,” the famed houseboats that adorn Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake’s placid waters are in grave danger as deterioration takes hold.

An alarming number of houseboats have fallen into disrepair since 2010, according to the Houseboat Owners’ Association (HBOA), which is leading the campaign to preserve this cultural asset.


The HBOA believes that there are now just 750 houseboats in Kashmir. As a result of his concerns about the lack of government action, HBOA President Manzoor Ahmad Pakhtoon issued a stern warning: “If the administration continues to be indifferent to its protection, you won’t find any houseboats left in Kashmir.”

150 of the owners of the remaining 750 houseboats have submitted applications for licences to be deregulated, according to Pakhtoon, underscoring the severity of the issue.

They are pleading with the government to provide them land so they may construct homes as they think about permanently quitting the houseboat business.

Bureaucratic roadblocks make the houseboat industry’s situation worse. The government’s seeming indifference has hampered progress despite continuous legal action.

“Last year, an order was issued promising subsidised timber for repairs to houseboat owners, but no concrete step has been taken,” Pakhtoon added.

“The handling of Kashmir’s houseboats inside the territory and how they are advertised at tourist events outside of the area are in sharp contrast. While these houseboats provide Kashmir tourism with a distinctive selling advantage, there is a glaring absence of strategy and a long-term plan for their preservation. It is alarming that these cultural assets are deteriorating so quickly, he remarked. “The new generation is hesitant to continue this trade, and we might be witnessing the end of an era as houseboat ownership rapidly fades away.”

Javid Ahmad, a houseboat owner who was impacted, described how the remodelling prohibition had put him in a difficult financial situation.

He said that despite repeated requests for the government to protect the houseboat industry, nothing productive had happened.

The houseboats of Kashmir are timeless works of art that have adorned the lakeshores for decades.

Some of these houseboats were built in the early 1900s and are still used to accommodate visitors looking for a distinctive experience of living on the river in tastefully designed bedrooms with cedar panels and all the latest comforts.

These houseboats come in different sizes and have a variety of facilities; some even have up to three bedrooms, living areas, and kitchens.

Similar to hotels, they are divided into categories depending on how opulent they are, from luxurious houseboats with exquisite furnishings to those in the “D category” with sparse furnishings.

The houseboat owners’ pleading for preservation serves as a wake-up call, highlighting the critical need to save these iconic cultural objects and essential facets of Kashmir’s tourist legacy.

As they deteriorate further, the destiny of these houseboats is in limbo, waiting for government intervention to assure their survival for future generations.



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