AP PHOTOS: Kashmir’s floating market reopens after floods
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Boats laden with fresh produce appear just after dawn, floating through a maze of waterways on Dal Lake in the main city of India’s portion of Kashmir.
This is Kashmir’s floating vegetable market, deep inside the lake and surrounded by scenic house boats and water lilies.
In this idyllic setting boatmen haggle over price and vegetables are traded and shifted from one boat to another amid the chirping of birds.
Sometimes a boat will weave through, selling flowers to the tourists who stay in the houseboats.
Within an hour the delightful scene vanishes. The day’s business is done.
For generations this market in the middle of the lake has endured. But last year heavy floods devastated most of Kashmir and drowned the floating vegetable gardens in the lake.
“It has been a tough year. I’m so happy to see many of us here again,” vegetable vendor Ghulam Hassan said. “I don’t know how long it will take us to get back to how it used to be before the floods.”
The flooding in September last year destroyed thousands of homes and infrastructure worth $17 billion in Kashmir. For days, many residents were left stranded on rooftops or the upper floors of buildings as bloated livestock carcasses floated by.
And Dal Lake dwellers found it extremely difficult to keep their houseboats anchored as the water levels rose the highest they had in a century.
Growing vegetables in the lake has just about started again but the local delicacy of nadur, or the lotus stem, will take another year or two, farmers say.
Vegetables traded in the floating market are supplied to Srinagar and many towns across the Kashmir valley. It’s one of the major sources of income for the lake dwellers who spend years carefully nurturing their floating gardens from the weeds and rich soil extracted from the lake bed.
Growers say the production is still low but they’re happy.
“At least we’ve made a fresh beginning. There’s a lot of hard work ahead,” says 70-year old vegetable grower, Mohammed Safdar.
“I already miss selling nadur.”