Take action to prevent the future floods. Nothing tangible seems to have been done so far!
The sudden passing away of the former Chief Minister has thrown the state into a very uneasy state of uncertainty. One is not sure how long will the Governor’s rule continue nor is any definite indication about the date of swearing in of the new Chief Minister. One of the negative fall outs of this uncertainty is the stalling of urgent measures for taming the River to prevent future floods.
The Governor in a high level meeting held recently had ordered the Secretary Irrigation and Flood Control to immediately start dredging of the River Jhelum and also strengthen its embankments. The process was directed to be completed in a given time frame and had also to be continuously monitored. This is the most important assignment which has to be carried out in the shortest possible time by some resourceful agencies.
In fact, there are already detailed reports and plans on the subject of flood prevention with the concerned department. They had even submitted some of these plans to Government of India few years back but after that the whole thing seems to have gone into limbo, the result of which was the destructive flood of September, 2014. The destruction could be easily classified as criminal negligence on the part of all concerned. In any other country, there would have been a thorough probe and the guilty would have been tried and punished. However, in Kashmir, the “Accountability” has been the first victim of the turmoil of the recent years!
Even last year some experts have conducted detailed satellite survey of the flood. It has been pointed out by the experts that most of the flood basins of the River have been fully silted or encroached upon. The River and its spill over channel have not been dredged for decades. Apart from this the water shed of the River has been deforested thereby allowing the rain water to run off immediately after it falls. There is hardly any retention because of the denuded soil. It has also been observed that there is a definite climate change which has resulted in either very little precipitation sometimes while as some other times like during the start of the month of September, 2014, there is too much precipitation. Keeping in view all these reports and observations, it is the most immediate need to implement specific flood prevention measures. Rehabilitation and restoration of the infrastructure even if delayed, will not be as fatal as neglecting measures for prevention of future floods. Moreover, no one would like to be once again rehabilitated after yet another disastrous flood. People already rehabilitated have still not forgotten the nightmares of the last trauma!
The work of dredging has to be undertaken throughout the length of the River, especially, at Baramulla and Sopore in the downstream area and beyond Sangam in the upstream area. During Maharajas time there used to be a dredger permanently stationed in Baramulla.
According to Environmental Policy Group almost all the wetlands have been silted up. These too need to be desilted. The Srinagar City itself is now in continuous danger of getting submerged with every sizeable flood. The areas across towards Mahjoor Nagar, Natipora, Barzulla, and Bemina and so on formed the flood basin of the River. These have been encroached upon and a major portion of the Capital City is housed there. Most of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have either disappeared or have shrunk due to encroachments. To restore all these will take quite some time. The immediate solution to save the City from yet another disastrous flood would be immediate and sizeable dredging of the River all along its length and strengthening of the embankments on the its two sides as it passes through the City. This task can be successful only if it is entrusted to a very resourceful agency with sufficient equipment and trained manpower. Piecemeal dredging here and there will not solve the problem.
The Governor has initiated a very good people friendly move. It would be in the fitness of things if he continues to supervise and monitor the operation even after the installation of a popular government. This being the most fundamental requirement for the safety and security of the people, all the political parties should have no objection to such a project initiated in the public interest! Let us hope some good sense prevails and people rise above all petty considerations!