Of the five tourist villages earmarked for tourists to stay with locals for experiencing the Kashmiri way of life, the Kachri Mohalla, a floating garden inside Srinagar’s Dal Lake, was the first to be thrown open to tourists this summer. The tourists did come in good numbers and were overwhelmed with the locals' hospitality but found the place short of comfort.
Based on the feedback the J&K government has decided to upgrade the roads and alleys and also augment the conveniences in the local home stays in the Kachri Moholla once considered the ‘slum’ of Dal lake. Already there are 900 houseboats inside the Dal Lake that offer 2400 rooms for homestays. In May, the government decided to add the clusters of island villages with the twin purpose of generating income for the locals and increasing social interaction between tourists and Kashmiris.
Interestingly, the Kachri Moholla project was started by the Indian Army under its operation Sadbhawana. The marooned village was connected to Rainawari, Srinagar city by a road, its surroundings were cleaned, and public spaces were painted. The locals also refurbished their homes to welcome guests.
Children of Kachri Moholla with the Indian Army
The government picked up the idea and identified Sofi Mohalla, Tinda Mohalla, Akhoon Mohalla, and the Vegetable Market area for development. As a record one crore tourists visited Kashmir this summer, the Kachri Moholla also received its share of tourists. However, the people and the government soon found out that a lot more needs to be done to make the place more attractive and comfortable.
“So far six houses have started working and provided homestays for tourists during the last couple of months", said Ashiq Hussain, a Kachri Moholla resident who offered homestays to nearly a dozen tourists. His two-storey old house with five rooms is in the center of the island village, and was initially renovated for the homestays.
“Tourists have to pay low prices for the homestay and food,” he said. I also provided Kashmiri cuisine Wazwaan to a group of tourists on demand.
Tourists in the Kachri Moholla
Tourists prefer attached bathrooms and we are trying to build this facility, said Ghulam Mustafa as he conducted Awaz-the Voice visit to two different houses. At least 50 to 60 tourists, mainly families or groups availed of the home stay facility here.
“Much needs to be done for a comfortable stay and access of the tourists” to this village on the western shore of the lake along the Rainawari-Saidakadal axis, said Ghulam Mustafa, another resident providing home stays.
The arrival of tourists in the ‘Kashmir Floating village’ has been temporarily suspended for better connectivity and developed footpaths leading to the houses. In case of rains it becomes difficult for the tourists to walk to the houses, said Ghulam Mustafa. Also, the authorities like the Tourism Department and J&K Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA), have assured cooperation. The LCMA has agreed to open the main waterway through the lake to this village from Boulevard road via Char Chinari. This will give access to the village from the main road too.
“Every house of the entire Kachri Mohalla is being turned into a homestay, '’ while registration with the Tourism Department is under process, Mohammad Maqbool, Chairman of Save Dal Organization (SDO) told Awaz-the voice. Leveling the ground and walking developing paths towards the houses and clearing water channels would be part of the development of the area at the cost of Rs 7.5 crore, said Mohammad Maqbool.
Locals welcoming Tourists
No new constructions are allowed, as the authorities plan to provide financial assistance to the house owners for renovation and upgrading the existing facilities, he added. “The village is also being turned into an organic cluster, where vegetables without the use of chemicals or pesticides would be grown” for sales, said Maqbool and added that the process in this direction has been going on for the past one year and it would take another year for a complete transformation into an organic cluster. These measures are being taken given the preservation of the lake.
Secretary Tourism, Sarmad Hafeez said that the J&K Government recently launched a new policy of home stays wherein the Department is targeting to enhance the bed capacity by 25,000 beds at different tourist resorts and locations across the UT.
This is part of the Tourist Village Network under Mission Youth aimed at transforming 75 villages of the UT known for historical, picturesque beauty and cultural significance into tourist villages.