In order to attract more tourists and to revive the centuries old mode of water transport in Kashmir, first bus boat service has started in Jhelum River. The state of the art bus boat has a seating capacity of 35 passengers and 5 crew members, including a driver and four rescuers.The boat was procured under central government’s Swadesh Darshan scheme funded under the Prime Minister’s Development Programme (PMDP). The programme aims at integrated theme-based infrastructure development of tourist sites including river Jhelum in Kashmir.The bus boat would initially operate from Pantha Chowk in Srinagar outskirts to Qamarwari, on the downstream Jhelum river. The luxury bus boat will have seven stops – Pantha Chowk, Rajbagh, Peerzo, Polo View, Amira Kadal, Khankahi Moula, and Veer Chattabal.The 30-seater ‘Bus Boat’ imported from a New Zealand-based company named Mac is currently undergoing trials. The luxury bus boat will have a music system, TV, air conditioner and more. While tourists can happily cruise along the Jhelum river in the luxury bus boat, locals can use this boat for an eco-friendly and faster mode of transport, avoiding traffic congestion in Srinagar.Mohammad Ehsan Project coordinator, while talking to STATE TIMES shared, “Govt has taken this initiative to revive water transport in Kashmir and this bus-boat is a part of it. There are three bus-boats at present and we have six floating docks on Jhelum banks to pick-up and de-board passengers.Moreover, these boats have been made keeping in mind the current needs of the people. The boats have air conditioning, music system and television. This is an optimum solution to decongest roads.”Mohd Ehsaan further added, “One major benefit is that this boat will attract tourists. They will be more excited to ride it and take a tour around the Dal lake and across the entire Jhelum river. It will be sailing throughout the Jhelum area and the old city as well.”Syed Mujtaba, a local resident said, “It is an absolutely value addition travel. You reach your destination without any hassle, you don’t add to air pollution, you save fuel besides enjoying the beauty of the river and its banks. Also it will revive our age-old tradition of using water transport as a medium of travel. We are very happy with initiative and hope that it will boost tourism and generate employment opportunities for the local youth.”
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