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May 6, 2012

Water taxis on Jhelum river to reduce traffic congestion

     Srinagar: In an effort to reduce traffic congestion on the streets of Jammu and Kashmir and to attract tourists, the state government has launched a water taxi service on the Jhelum River. The service is a joint effort of the state government and state Irrigation and Flood Control Department. The first taxi service, having the capacity of eight persons, was flagged off by Kashmir Divisional Commissioner, Asgar Samoon, from Peerzoo to Chattabal Weir on Saturday. Samoon said besides providing a cheap alternative transport facility, it would also attract tourists. "It is an alternate form of transport because this water transport is cheaper. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department will monitor the services and issue the license. However, the state government has initiated the project but the connected departments like tourism and municipality are helping out. Two-three water boats are deployed and these will operate for 15-20 days till private players enter the field and tenders will be announced for them by the Irrigation and Flood Control Department. The private parties will provide water transport to people. This facility is not just for tourists but actually for the locals, for their daily travelling, we would also be using these water boats from tomorrow for travelling to our offices," said Samoon. The fare for the whole stretch has been fixed at Rs. 60, while charges from one bank to another would be Rs. 25 per passenger, he said. The boarding and de-boarding operations would be carried out from the existing banks till a permanent infrastructure is established. Happy with the new service, locals said this would generate employment opportunities in the city. "This is a good step initiated by the government. This will reduce traffic congestion from the city streets and the river will also remain clean. The people living in Srinagar will realise the importance and benefits of water transport. This will also boost tourism and locals will get employment opportunity," said Reyaz Ahmed, a local. Tourism is one of the biggest means of earning for the people of Jammu and Kashmir . Meanwhile, Kashmir of northern Jammu and Kashmir state was once a top Asian tourism destination, popular among honeymooners, skiers, trekkers and anglers, and attracting about a million tourists a year until 1989, when a simmering anger against New Delhi 's rule burst into a violent rebellion. And the numbers of visitors shrunk to only a few thousand a year. However, with peace being restored in the province, the influx of tourists has increased.
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