A boat ambulance service equipped with healthcare facilities has started on Dal Lake in Kashmir Valley.
The service, which is expected to benefit thousands of people in the landlocked region, is the brainchild of Tariq Ahmad Patloo.
A houseboat owner in Srinagar, Mr Patloo came up with the idea of floating ambulance last year after he tested positive for coronavirus.
"Considering the situation at hospitals and homes due to rising cases, I have set up this facility for people. I got a number of phone calls for assistance and I provided them proper help as per their requirement. Presently the ambulance is full with main equipment, including first aid, stretcher, wheelchair, BP set, and PPE kits," Mr Patloo told ANI.
As the second wave of Covid-19 gained momentum, huge tourist inflow during the spring season caused a spurt in the Covid cases in and around Srinagar.
On March 25, when Srinagar's Tulip Garden was thrown open to the public, the Valley registered 131 fresh cases.
The Union Territory, on Friday, clocked its biggest single-day jump of 5,443 Covid cases, pushing its infection tally to 2,06,954, officials said.
Mr Patloo said people have apprehensions in coming forward to rush the virus patients to hospitals. He said nobody was ready to escort him when he was infected. But with the arrival of the floating ambulance, even if it is a small drop in the ocean, the situation is expected to improve.
"This ambulance has siren and speaker facilities which are being used for announcements aimed to make people aware regarding wearing masks and other important things. I tried my best to make this ambulance friendly for people and within two to three days, oxygen facility will also be available," Mr Patloo added.
The District Disaster Management Authority recently established a Covid care in Srinagar's Bemina area. The facility with 100 oxygenated beds came up in the city's Hajj House to treat patients requiring isolation and treatment of moderate symptoms.
Residents believe that more such ambulances are required to cover the need for medical services in the area.
"The step taken by Tariq is very good, it should have happened 10-15 years ago. I believe there should be more such ambulance services at other lakes also. There is Nigeen Lake and other lakes too where such service is required," Muhammed Yaseen told ANI.
The Dal Lake ambulance could prove to be a game-changer if equipped with medical practitioners.
"It is my request to the government to kindly provide me a doctor facility so that I will treat patients properly during any emergency," Mr Patloo urged.
He said he heard so many stories where people living around the lake have suffered due to lack of medical facilities.
"The ambulance service is a must, not only at Dal Lake but at other lakes as well. We need a minimum of 10 more such ambulances as Kashmir has been affected by the second wave of coronavirus in the country," said Manzoor Ahmad, a shikara owner.