Fetching livelihood from Asia’s Fresh Water Lake

Fetching livelihood from Asia’s Fresh Water Lake

Water Chestnut extraction commences at Wullar

Tauseef Ahmad

BANDIPORA, Aug 17: Bandipora district is the main supplier of water chestnuts to J&K and outside UT.  From July to September people living on the banks of Wulur lake row their boats deep into Asia’s fresh water Lake to extract water chestnuts which are then supplied to markets in and outside the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Located barely around 15 kilometers from Bandipora town in north Kashmir, the far flung village of Kanbathi is one of the principal suppliers of water chestnuts, locally known as ‘Gaerr’, to the markets across the Kashmir valley.

Talking to Kashmir Despatch one of the local residents Abdul Rashid Dar said that a fisherman works 08-10 hours a day at the lake to survive with his family. “We’re doing fishing too, to earn our livelihood. But as of now, the major focus is on water chestnuts,” Dar added

He said that families with low economic status are involved in the chestnut business. The villages taking pride in water chestnut businesses include Lankrishipora, Kehnusa, Kunzpora, Saderkoot, Zurimanz, Ashtangoo, Banyari, Kanibathi, Kulhama and Laharwalpora.

Dar has been involved in extracting chestnuts for the last 23 years. “Chestnut industry runs in Crores due to the mass participation of people in this town. If the given parameters are taken into account, the gross revenue of these villages touches around Rs 5 Crore at the end of a season,” he said.

Another villager Ghulam Hassan from Keheneusa said that nearly 80 percent inhabitants are involved in extracting chestnuts from Wular to make their living. “Chestnuts are the main source of income for the majority of people living here.” These boatmen leave their homes in the wee hours, row their boats into the lake and return in the evening with around 10 kg of chestnuts in  boats and sell them on streets on the main road of Bandipora Sopore road from which they earn two hundred  to  three hundred rupees a day.

“On an average a vendor’s single day sale of water chestnuts is Rs 200 to Rs 250. Since a large number of people are involved in the cultivation of water chestnuts, the collective income touches around Rs 1 lakh per day,” a local vendor told Kashmir Despatch, while making a rough calculation.

But the income from chestnuts is seasonal. The extraction of chestnuts lasts only four to six twice in a year mostly in the months of July to September and December to February. The villagers said that they are very happy when the season arrives as everybody can easily earn their livelihood.

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