Srinagar-Jammu national highway was open for two-way traffic on Sunday while Srinagar-Leh and the Mughal Road remained snowbound and closed.
In a bid to retrieve the vanishing Khushalsar lake in Srinagar, the authorities have demolished 25 of the 300 identified encroachments over the lake area.
Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary on Sunday said that the administration has begun retrieval of encroached parts of famed Khushalsar Lake, besides demolishing 25 encroachments and retrieving 3.75 acres of lake area.
“This anti-encroachment drive will continue until over 300 identified encroachments are removed in Srinagar,” Choudhary said. “We want a massive public support on this and people should come forward and report about the encroachments, cases of land grab across the City,” he said, adding “We have completed all the requisites formalities and has started removing encroachments and retrieving encroached parts of Khushalsar Lake,” he said.
The anti-encroachment drive began on Saturday when the administration swung into action removing 25 encroachments including structures and compounds and retrieving over 3.75 acres of lake area.
The DC has urged the general public to report to concerned authorities all cases of land-grabbing and illegal constructions on Government or common land and water bodies in the district and help the district administration in its renewed efforts to safeguard these public assets of great importance.
According to officials, this significant step that has been long overdue follows extensive preparations over the last few months during which relevant formalities – including inspections and verifications and issuance of notices to encroachers – were completed.
Notably the identified encroachments in Khushalsar lake area include around 80 illegally built residential houses—where people live — details of which were compiled last year by the Revenue department of the district.
The other 220-odd encroachments are in the forms of fenced landholdings and plinths and sheds. These also include under-construction structures.
The encroachers who have built residential houses in the lake area have been served several eviction notices during the last several months.
While the first eviction notice was served soon after the retrieval proceedings were initiated following District Magistrate Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary visited the area in May last year the last eviction notice was served last month. The recent action against encroachments in the lake area also saw two of these residential houses coming in the path of bulldozers and being demolished.
The administration has appealed to the locals to self-demolish their residential structures and self-evict from there. It has warned that obstructions in retrieval proceedings and non-compliance with eviction orders will result in strict criminal proceedings as per the law.
Meanwhile in the light of these illegal constructions having taken place without requisite building permissions, the DM has ordered the Jammu and Kashmir Police to investigate the matter and look into possible official involvement in illegal construction of residential structures in the lake area.
Pertinently, famed Khushalsar Lake was once a vast and thriving water body with clear water and thriving vegetation — and acted as a source of livelihood for many. However, presently the lake is in highly deteriorated condition having been encroached upon at many places with illegal construction and landfilling.
The lake once stretched from Zoonimar up to the Aali Masjid but now it is considerably reduced. It is connected to the Anchar lake via a small channel. Another smaller lake, known as Gilsar, is connected to the Khushal Sar through a narrow strait, which is spanned by a bridge known as Gil Kadal. The Gilsar lake is in turn connected to the Nigeen lake via the Nallah Amir Khan. According to conservationists, until the 1970s, the Mar Canal drained into this lake providing navigability up to Ganderbal though the Anchar Lake. They say, after the filling up of the Mar canal, the condition of the lake deteriorated further.