Srinagar, Feb 2: A narrow wooden pathway starting from the Chowdary Bagh area of Rainawari leads to a renowned floating market nestled within the heart of Dal Lake in Srinagar. Every morning, prior to the sunrise, hundreds of people from different parts of the capital city visit the market to purchase different kinds of fresh vegetables cultivated in the wet or floating fields within the lake.
The farmers offer a variety of vegetables to their customers, who arrive in empty boats, to purchase vegetables like turnips, tomatoes, cucumbers, lotus stems [locally known as Nardoo] among others. These vegetables are later sold at various locations across the city.
“We sell around 200 to 300 kilograms of vegetables to customers every day,” Mehraj ud Din, a farmer who cultivates lotus stems in the famous market, said. “This year the production was lower compared to previous years due to the dry spell during the peak winter,” he added.
Fifty percent of the crops, Din said, were damaged due to the dry spell. He added that scarcity of snowfall and rainfall had a financial impact on farmers like him making it difficult to earn the amount they deserve.
“We prefer not to use water from the lake due to pollution concerns because contaminated water affects our produce,” Din said. “Over last half a decade the situation has worsened to the extent that using this water results in our crops burning due to the presence of harmful chemicals spilled through drains,” he added.
Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, a vegetable seller within the floating market of the Dal Lake, said that during the summer over 300 boats belonging to retailers visit the market.
“June-July is our peak season and we supply vegetables to the entire city in at least 300 to 400 boats,” said Sheikh. “During the winter season we hardly find 60 to 70 boats,” he said, adding not everyone can make it there due to the intense cold.
“This vegetable market is not merely a place of commerce but a symbol of resilience,” Sheikh said. “Farmers as well as our customers face different challenges such as weather uncertainties to ensure regular food supply for the people of Kashmir especially living in Srinagar,” he added.
Meanwhile, Din, the grower, revealed that retailers buy vegetables at one-fourth of the market price.
“We farmers desire to sell our vegetables independently but we lack space for it,” Din said. “I as a farmer urge the Government to designate a spot for us where we can directly sell our produce,” he said, adding, the initiative would “benefit all parties involved including the general public who would purchase vegetables at a low cost.”