SRINAGAR: Other five-year-old girls would be busy playing with dolls or toys or kitchen sets, but little Jannat is on a mission — to clean up the Dal Lake, the jewel in Kashmir’s crown, and restore it to its pristine beauty.
Whenever she can, the little girl gets on to a shikara with her father, Tariq Ahmed Patloo, and fishes out empty plastic and alcohol bottles and polythene waste that have sullied the waters of the lake. She piles up the garbage in the shikara and then dumps it all in a trash can.
“The Dal Lake has been polluted. We have to clean it and make it beautiful again and preserve it,” the girl told The Sunday Standard, speaking with a maturity beyond her five years.
Jannat got inspired into lending her father a hand by watching him do whatever little he could to clean up the lake. Patloo, in turn, was inspired by a, Englishman whom he saw refraining from flicking cigarette ash into the waters some years ago.
The UKG student of Linton Hall School in Srinagar, who lives in a houseboat in the interiors of the lake, would see her father dirtying his hands with garbage when he would take her to school in a shikara.
“Whenever I went by boat, I would see a lot of garbage in the waters. I used to feel bad and decided to help my father clean up the garbage,” she said.
“I feel very happy after removing garbage and litter from the lake. My brother, sister and Baba help me a lot in cleaning up.”
Patloo has also started a ‘Mission Dal Lake’ page on Facebook and suggested measures the government could take to clean the lake.
Talking about the Englishman who inspired his clean-up mission, he said: “He inspired me to do something to clean the lake and I used to collect garbage from my boat. It inspired my daughter. Jannat is very fond of cleanliness. If she eats chocolates, biscuits, candies or chips, she always throws the garbage in the dustbin.”
Patloo said her penchant for cleanliness extended to her school too. “She tells her friends in school now to throw waste materials in the open but use dustbins all the time. She is very particular about this. That’s the main reason for her mission to clean the Dal Lake.” Jannat has appealed to local people and tourists not to throw garbage in the lake. “I request all children to join hands with me to clean the lake. I also request the tourists not to throw waste in the lake,” she said.
“I want others to come forward and help in cleaning the lake so that its clean water attracts more and more people to Kashmir.” Quite uncharacteristically for a child her age, Jannat added: “We have recovered many alcohol bottles from the lake. To keep the lake clean, the government should close liquor shops in the Dal Lake area and ban alcohol.”