Speed-breakers not allowed

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Water skiing, surfing and adventure sports are gaining popularity and with the tourist inflow expected to rise, the business is in for some sunny days. Faisal Rashid reports.

Speed BoatingWater Sking and surfing in the Dal lake are attracting many tourists as well as locals visiting the lake. The adventure sports have been started by people who runs the bathing boats (locally called Srann Nauve).

The Srann-Nauve are sort of open boats placed in the middle of the lake, where people come to swim in the lake. “The bathing boats have been there for almost a hundred years,” says Nazir Ahmad who has been associated with the trade for more than 40 years. “My father used to do the same business here and I inherited it from him.”

The motorized boats and jet skis are a recent addition in the trade.  One of the companies which provides the services is named the Rolls Royce.

With an increase in tourist inflow and a rising interest among local people has seen their business flourishing. “However, the past few years of summer unrest had an adverse effect on the business,” Mohammed Ashraf, who owns a few swanky jet skis and motor boats. “We are very much dependent on the tourists. As long as the situation in the valley remains peaceful, our trade booms.”

For bathing or water surfing the weather has to be sunny and the limited business season has been marred by unseasonal rains and bad weather in the past.

As the business lasts for a short span of season for about few months, any kind of adversity either in security conditions or weather conditions proves lethal for the people associated with Srann-Nauve. “People do come here when it is pleasant weather and peaceful environment.” Said Ashraff.

Around 200 people earn their livelihood from the business.  “Almost 60 families are wholly dependent on these boats and water sports,” says Nazir Ahmad. “Every ride demands two life guards and a driver to ensure safety of the passenger.”

There are more than 60 motorboats and a few Jet skis associated with these four bathing boats.

The tourist department of Jammu and Kashmir Government provides them life saving equipments from time to time. The bathing boats are equipped with heating systems and emergency medical aid.

“The life guards as well as the surfers and riders are made to wear necessary equipments before they go for  surfing or jet-skiing,” said Ashraf.

Besides providing services of water sports, the Rolls Royce company also trains young boys and girls in different water sports. Rolls Royce is recognized by the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering.

The requisites for having the skiing and surfriding are the open space with no shikaras and boats in the area. The space needs to be kept free from Shikara in order to avoid accidents which may prove lethal at times, said Ashraf.

A ride in the motor boat costs Rs 250 for an adult while water skiers are charged at Rs 300.

The tariffs have not been revised since 2006, when the government fixed these.

The government is planning to get in private investment to give a boost to the water skiing and other adventurous sports.

Farooq Ahmad Shah, Director Tourism said, “We are planning to enhance the water sports facility at various tourist spots across the valley. Also we wish private players to come forward and establish their set up for motor sports. We will be providing them area around SKICC and foreshore in Dal Lake for that purpose, which is open and feasible for it.”

However, the people at the Rolls Royce, seem to be unhappy with the suggestion fearing that it will affect their trade. “We insist on providing us one point from where we can operate our business but the government asks us to operate from many spots,” said Mohammed Ashraf.

The are other people providing motorboat and jet-ski services in Dal lake near Nehru Park. The two groups are at loggerheads over the use of open space in the lake. Both claim to have been working in the lake for years. The differences have led the parties to the court.

Meanwhile, the business is expecting a good year as tourist arrivals are expected to grow.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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