SRINAGAR: Workers hired by Jammu and Kashmir Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) to remove water Lilies from Dal Lake on Tuesday complained that deweeding with machines is a wastage of time and money as they fail to remove them by roots, which if left there grow again. “These machines are futile. They cannot reach the roots of the Water Lilies and instead cut them from the top, leaving the roots there,” said a worker. He likened the deweeding machines to ‘trimmers’ saying it serves no purpose if roots are left intact at the bottom of the Lake.
In a demonstration, a ‘Mate’ at the deweeding site near Ghat 22 who showed the the Kashmir News Bureau crew around, brought other workers together and showed how better tools they had compared to the machine. “We are the locals and we have grown up on the waters of Dal Lake. We know full well how to get rid of the Water Lilies,” the Mate said, wishing anonymity. “But we can only do that if government is willing to listen to us. If we do it manually with the tools we have, we will clear the lake of all Lilies. Yes, it will take time,” he added.
The other workers at the site in their boats loaded with the trimmed weed and water lilies also voiced their concern. “We are paid a pittance. An amount of rupees 450 is not enough at all. Will we buy food, clothes, or pay children’s school fee with this?” asked another worker standing at the stern of his boat.
Speaking to Kashmir News Bureau, Vice Chairman J and K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Dr. Abdul Hafiz Shah (KAS) said, “The deweeding process is going on both mechanically and manually. This is true that machines cannot remove along with the roots. However, whenever we remove water lilies, generally manually, we uproot them so that they do not grow again.
The Vice Chairman about the removal of weeds said, “ Weeds are part of the Dal Lake so they cannot be uprooted. They function as the breathing lungs for the lake. The requirement is, from the aesthetic point of view, to clear them from the surface”. “Last year, we started a major operation and have had good results. This year, we have only 20 percent of Lilies in the area which was manually cleared a year before. And that 20 percent too will be cleared soon,” Shah said.
When asked about the wages of the workers, he said, “When I took over as Vice Chairman last year, I spoke individually to all the workers and was told that because of the mate system in place back then, a worker would only get Rs. 180 to 200 only, and that too not on time. No sooner I took over, I removed the mate system and increased the wages to Rs. 450. If still workers demand that their wages be increased, I will put forward the same before the authority and implement whatever the decision is taken”.