Where do people live on boats?

          We have heard about the boatpeople of Vietnam and Cambodia who sailed and inhabited aboard the boats in the Hongkong bay for months together. We also know that tourists enjoy their holidays in houseboats whenever they find an opportunity to stay in them. But it is quite interesting to learn that there are people in certain parts of the world who reside in houseboats permanently. But why do they do so?

          According to economists, growth of population beyond a desirable limit often creates a major hindrance to the economic development of a nation. The scarcity of habitable land is another offshoot of the problem. The high-rise buildings or skyscrapers are the results of this scarcity of land areas and solve the problem to a great extent by accommodating people within the available space. Alternatively people in some places build their house on boats — either due to the non-availability of sufficient land or land is too expensive for them to make their shelters.

          As per the available statistics and information, most of the boat-dwellers live in China, Japan and nearby islands. Many Chinese families spend their entire lives on boats — moored just off the overcrowded island of Hongkong. They call these houseboats as Sampans which are mostly seen along the coast and rivers in China. Sampans have facilities inside it to cook, eat, work and sleep. They are separated from within into small cabins. The roots of Sampans are made of mat-type materials.

          But life in a houseboat is not smooth and sometimes dangerous as well. Tropical storms and huge waves set off by an earthquake can destroy or sink such boats moored in shallow seas.

          In India, luxurious houseboats are stationed in the waters of ‘Dal Lake’ — in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The great poet and noble laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore composed some of his famous poems on a houseboat stationed in the bed of river Padma, now in Bangladesh.