The Fabulous Houseboats of Dal Lake

Some Dal Lake houseboats compete with 5-star hotels for tourist bookings | photo from the BBC | post by Larry Clinton

The more we learn about other floating home communities around the world, the more we realize what similar challenges we all face. The BBC has posted a short documentary on Dal Lake in the Kashmir region of northern India, where thousands of residents live on 910 houseboats. One Indian official proclaims: “In March and April, Kashmir is more beautiful than heaven.”

Many of these wooden structures were built by British ex–pats, who couldn’t own homes in colonial India. As tourists discovered them, the population mushroomed, along with problems like pollution.

Currently, 70% of the houseboats’ sewage goes directly into the lake, and a sewage treatment plant processes less than half of the actual requirement. Floating vegetable gardens, while nourishing and scenic, require insecticides and fertilizer, further fouling the water.

Additional houseboats have been banned, just like here in Richardson’s Bay. The government is also considering options for cleaning up the lake, including moving all the houseboats into one specific area, “so the sewage and waste problems could be centralized.” Sounds a bit like the mooring field proposed for the remaining anchor–outs, doesn’t it?

According to a promotional website, the cost of a one–night stay at a houseboat on Dal Lake ranges between 1,000 Rupees ($134 USD) to 6,000 Rupees ($804 USD), depending on the number of people staying, the meals taken, and the type of houseboat chosen. But before you book a stay, remember that Kashmir borders on Pakistan, which has led to ongoing territorial disputes with India. The U.S. State Department advises Americans not to travel there “due to terrorism and civil unrest.”

So, for now, we can enjoy the video and sympathize with the problems of the houseboaters of Dal Lake.