Jammu and Kashmir’s famed Dal Lake will soon be without the heritage lights dotting the Boulevard Road, which encircles the water body.
The 350 antique cement lamp posts were installed in the late 1950s by then Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. The authorities are now replacing the 9-foot-high lights with the state emblem engraved on it with cast iron pole lights. To illuminate the area, the former PDP-BJP government had approved the Rs. 8.6-crore project in March 2017 to install 5-metre-high 490 ornamental poles with 920 lamps from the Dalgate to the Nishat crossing.
Over the years, the authorities say, a majority of the lights stopped working due to wear and tear or got damaged by de-weeding machines and floods.
'Obviously, we have to replace the old lights because a majority has got damaged. We can’t produce lights of the same design,' said an official in the power development department.
Dismissing any misgivings over the removal of heritage lamps, he said: 'Any change is always taken with scepticism but people will appreciate the new lights once they start functioning.'
However, experts disagree and say the cast iron poles look drab and are not aesthetically apt. 'They don’t gel with the environment and are very high,' said environmentalist and former chief of the Dal Lake authority, Irfan Yasin.
Yasin said the new lights had been installed on a 2-foot-high parapet, raising the height further. Officials said the project was approved by the former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, in consultation with senior officials of the PDD.
Voicing concerns over the replacement, the vice-chairman of the Lakes and Waters Development Authority (LAWDA), Mr. Hafeez Masoodi, said he had repeatedly written to the PDD not to replace the decades-old lights. 'The PDD has gone ahead and erected shabby poles which don’t go with the theme and aesthetics. We are now moving a proposal to the government to transfer the project to the LAWDA.'
Successive governments have also failed to preserve the famed Char Chinari (four chinars) island, also known as Ropa Lank, in the Dal Lake. Of the four chinar trees, one has completely disappeared while two are drying up.
Work on the installation of new lights started in March 2017 and was to be completed in October 2017. Officials say 60 per cent of the work has been completed. The work has been stopped because the government has not released a penny to the contractors. The Chief Engineer, PDD, Qazi Hashmat, said the payment would be released soon.