Dal Lake, Srinagar’s pristine glory, is familiar to the world as being the lake of placid and jade-hued waters fringed with willows and majestic Chinar trees and marooned amidst lotus fields and floating gardens against the backdrop of magnificent mountains. The kaleidoscope of colour – with its beautiful houseboats which offer a lifestyle of luxury and elegance and its shikaras, the Kashmiri gondolas or flat-bottomed boats – are the visitors’ limousines on water.

The lake is also famous for its floating gardens and “floating vegetable market”, the only one of its kind in India and only the second in the world, the other being the rowing shops along the backwaters of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The floating vegetable market of the Dal has over the decades become a major attraction for tourists.  It first attracted international attention in 1960, when a Japanese photographer featured it in a tourist guide that was published out of Japan, said tourism officials.

However, the devastating floods of September 2014, which caused significant damage in many areas of Jammu and Kashmir, stole the lucky charms of the floating market. It took farmers of the Dal almost two years to bring the floating vegetable market back on the rails.

“Unfortunately, seeds were damaged in the floods. With less and in some varieties no production our business suffered a huge loss,” said Ghulam Nabi, a vegetable grower and seller.

Now, the floating vegetable market of the Dal Lake is, once again, flourishing. The annual turnover is estimated to be in the range of 45 to 50 crores.

The main attraction for the local customers is the fresh vegetables sold here on shikaras. Interestingly, the buyers also reach here on boats. One of them Bashir Ahmed said, “When compared with those grown elsewhere the vegetables of the Dal are truly scrumptious. They sell like hotcakes in the local market.”

Consisting of dozens of small boats, the floating vegetable market is set up shortly before dawn- seven days a week.  

Most of the vegetables are grown on the floating gardens of the lake spread over 1,250 acres of wetland and retrieved from these before being sold in just two hours. Any vegetables left over are taken to street markets.

Among the vegetables grown in floating gardens of the Dal Lake is lotus stem called ‘Nadur’ locally. Most of the vegetables grown on these floating gardens are organic produce, free from the use of chemical fertilizers.

The produce from Dal’s floating gardens not only meets the local requirement, but the vegetables procured from the Lake during the peak harvesting season are also supplied to other parts of Kashmir as well.

16 Oct 2018/ Tuesday                                                                                  Source:  The Asian Age

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