Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to do away with the Rakh-e-Arth project for the rehabilitation of Dal Lake dwellers, according to sources. This decision was taken at a recent high level meeting where the state government has decided to identify land for relocation of people living on the outskirts of the Dal Lake. Even as 2,000 families have been rehabilitated in this area, people seem reluctant to shift to Rakh-e-Arth, a marshy patch in Budgam district.

As per officials, over Rs 600 crore have so far been utilised on the development of a colony at Rakh-e-Arth. In the latest meeting, it was decided to develop Rakh-e-Arth for shifting of floating gardens instead, thus maintaining the livelihood of dwellers.

Hundreds of families settled on the outskirts of the Dal Lake have pleaded to the government to shift them to nearby places like Shalimar or Chandipora Harwan instead of the far off Rakh-e-Arth. Initially, under the Dal Conservation Project, the government had identified Chandipora Harwan land for the project, but later decided on Rakh-e-Arth in Budgam.

According to a report submitted by the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, about 2,000 plots have been allotted, whereas about 8,000 more are required to shift the entire population of Dal. A senior official of the state government told this newspaper. “If the government develops Rakh-e-Arth as floating gardens, how will people sustain their livelihoods? Growing vegetables in floating gardens will result in the lake getting de-silted and another Rs 2 crore will be required to restore the lake.” The state administration has roped in foreign companies for consultation to conserve the biodiversity of Dal, and all of them have a unanimous opinion that human population is a hindrance to conservation.

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