Thursday, October 4, 2018

Flood Prevention Not Preparedness!

(Instead of wasting time in mock drills to test the flood preparedness, the government should get down earnestly to implement urgent measures for flood prevention)
Image result for dredging

Recently there was a high level meeting to discuss the flood preparedness and it was decided that mock drills would be conducted to test the flood preparedness. In fact a tented colony to house the displaced persons was also set up! It is a pity that all of us have learnt no lessons from the disastrous flood of the century. The latest example of neglecting nature especially during the present period of a global climate change is the Kerala flood. They faced a disastrous situation even worse than Kashmir. There were hundreds of casualties and large scale destruction of property. They will take a long time to become normal again. Fortunately, in case of Kashmir, the nature was rather lenient. In fact, for last few years it has been giving us enough time to set our act straight by taking preventive measures. However, both the government and the people seem to be totally unmindful!
The last government wasted four precious years! The most important aspect was increasing the carrying capacity of the River and the flood spill over channel. Nothing substantial was done. In fact, a Kolkatta based firm which had been allotted the contract for the job during the Governor’s rule has been discontinued due to very slow progress and break down of machinery. A government of India panel in the wake of 2014 floods had thoroughly investigated the causes of the disastrous flood. They had pointed out the decrease in the carrying capacity of the River and its flood spill over channel over last few decades because of the absence of any dredging being carried out there. From 1986 till very recently no dredging was carried out in the outflow channel resulting into the drastic reduction in its carrying capacity from 17000 cusec to 3531 cusec. Similarly, no effective steps were taken to increase the flow velocity in the 96 kilometre Sangam-Wular mild slope stretch of river Jhelum. Last year the Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control publicly admitted that nothing substantial had been done regarding dredging of the River and the Flood Channel.
Recently the newly appointed Secretary Irrigation and Flood Control gave a detailed interview to a reporter of the newspaper. Incidentally, he was the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar during the century’s disastrous flood. As such he knows that prevention would be better than the cure! He admitted that the dredging had not been completed and would take some more time. According to him departmental dredgers are being used for the purpose. Apart from various environmental causes, the two main factors resulting in flooding and inundation of vast areas are the decreased capacity of the River and the Flood Channel and the weakness of the embankments. He confirmed that both these aspects are being given priority. The embankments have been surveyed to ascertain the weak points. A large number of encroachments on the River and Flood Channel banks have been removed. The Secretary invited advice from experts in the field. Hopefully, it should be coming. However, it would have been better if an open discussion on the subject was held where various experts and others could give their opinion.
Kashmir has always been prone to floods. In fact, most of the migrations from Kashmir in earlier times have taken place after the famines which used to result from disastrous floods. The story of King Avanti Varman’s illustrious minister Hakeem Soya is quite well known as it was taught in Schools through Kashmir’s History Books which seem to have disappeared now. He did secure the valley from the disastrous floods and improved irrigation throughout the valley. 
Recently there has been lot of reporting about declaring Srinagar a “Smart City”. There is no point in declaring Srinagar as a “Smart City” or improving its roads by flyovers and so on. The first thing is to secure it against the disastrous floods which may be visiting us off and on. There cannot be more pathetic and tragic fact than a couple of day’s rain being unwelcome in Kashmir which has always survived on rain! The rain used to be considered as a blessing but now it is a nightmare! There is no time left to apportion blame but the most immediate need is to undertake the urgent measures to secure the “City of the Sun” from floods. Not a difficult or impossible task. Only requirement is to get the job done honestly. It is a known fact that all engineering works are money minting proposals! For a change both the authorities and the people need to be honest and sincere. The task requires sincerity both from the government and the people. The lead has to be given by the popular leaders and prominent citizens supported by the government. Leaving the job totally to the government is virtually making preparations for the next disaster!
During the interview, the reporter praised the role of the new Secretary Flood in Tourism as its Secretary and Director General which he had dramatically uplifted in spite of the worst conditions. He hoped that similar dynamism and action would be shown by him in mitigating the impending threats of disastrous floods in future! Let us hope and pray that he does so and succeeds to earn the name of a modern “Hakeem Soya”!

Himalayas and the Climate Change

(The Himalayas play an important role in shaping the climate of the sub-continent and the recent erratic weather is the direct result of the “desecration” of the Himalayas!)
Himalayas and the Climate Change

The Educational Multimedia Research Centre of the University of Kashmir recently organized a film festival in collaboration with CMS Vatavaran, the International Forum on Environment and Wild Life. As part of the program a panel discussion titled, “The Impact of Himalaya on the Climatic Conditions of India”, was held. The focus of the panelists was the disastrous flood of September, 2014 which is considered to be a direct result of the ongoing climate change. No doubt the global phenomenon of undue warming and climate change contributed to the generation of the massive flood yet many panelists felt that the flood had resulted by the deliberate damage caused to the environment by the local people themselves. People due to material greed have squeezed the space of the River by stealing its flood basin and making numerous encroachments on its banks. Unless drastic measures are taken to restore the space for the extra waters during heavy rains, we may continuously face such floods in future also.
While being on the subject of Himalayas and the climate change it would be useful to recapitulate the role of the mountain chain in shaping not only the weather of the sub-continent but the life in general. One can get a detailed write up on the subject through Google, some parts of which are reproduced.
“Himalaya in Sanskrit means the “Abode of the snow”. The Himalayan Mountain Range forms the northern border of the Indian sub-continent. “The Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan plateau have formed as a result of the collision between the Indian Plate and Eurasian Plate which began 50 million years ago and continues today. 225 million years ago (Ma) India was a large island situated off the Australian coast and separated from Asia by the Tethys Ocean”. The Himalaya has 3 important ranges- Himadri, Himachal and Siwalik, about 2400 km in length & width of 240-320 km. The greater Himalayas or Himadri or northern ranges, average 6000m in height. Mount Everest 8848 m, the highest mountain in the world is in Himalaya.
No other mountain range anywhere in world has affected the life of people and shaped the destiny of a nation as the Himalayas have in respect of India. Himalayas block the summer monsoon winds and cause precipitation in vast parts of India which support agriculture in plains of Ganges and Indus. The height of the Himalayan Mountains concentrates most of the monsoonal rainfall on the Indian Subcontinent. This same mountain range blocks cold winds from Siberia from penetrating the region. This is why most of India has a warm, tropical climate with high precipitation. The Himalayas also prevent the cold Siberian air masses from entering into India. Had there been no Himalayas, the whole of northern India would have been a cold desert.
Almost all the great rivers of India have their sources in the Himalayan ranges. Abundant rainfall and vast snow-fields as well as large glaciers are the feeding grounds of the mighty rivers of India. Snow melt in summer provides water to these rivers even during dry season and these are perennial rivers. The Himalayan Rivers, along with hundreds of their tributaries, form the very basis of life in the whole of north India. The Himalayan region offers several sites which can be used for producing hydroelectricity. There are natural waterfalls at certain places while dams can be constructed across rivers at some other places. The vast power potential of the Himalayan Rivers still awaits proper exploitation and utilisation.
In addition, the Himalayas have abundance of the forest wealth, agricultural possibilities, extensive Tourism potential, unlimited and unexploited mineral wealth and finally scores of pilgrim sites. Most importantly, these act as a Defence Barrier for the entire sub-continent. Unfortunately, in spite of the most important role these play in the life of the sub-continent, we have tried our best to desecrate these in every possible way! The deforestation caused by uncontrolled cutting of the trees. The pollution of the rivers by garbage left by the “pilgrims”, over-exploitation of land by grazing and agriculture and so many other activities are damaging the Himalayas extensively. If we have to adjust to the global climate change, we have to take care to save the Himalayas. These alone could help us to cope up with some of the disastrous effects seen in recent times. The Chinese Philosopher Confucius once said, “The wise men find pleasure in water, the virtuous in mountains”! Unfortunately, the saying does not seem to hold good now!

Kashmir, the “Final” solution!

(Reportedly, Prime Minister Modi is going to announce the “Final” solution of the Kashmir problem before 2019 elections!)

Image result for j  7  k map

Recently there was a news report that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to announce the “Final” solution of the Kashmir problem very soon. In fact, the Eurasian Times on September 12 carried an item titled, “PM Modi will divide Kashmir in three parts before 2019 elections”. The writer poses a question, “Is Delhi planning to divide Jammu and Kashmir into three parts i.e. Hindu Majority Jammu, Buddhist and Shia Muslim dominated Ladakh and Sunni Muslim dominated Kashmir Valley? As per reports in a local Jammu and Kashmir daily, Indian PM is keen to change the political map of J&K before Indian elections of 2019”.
“Quoting the sources, the Jammu based paper reported that the PM Modi wants to resolve the Kashmir issue during his first-term itself. “It is possible that the PM may himself in a month or so declare division of Kashmir into three parts,” it said. According to PMO officials, Delhi was working out a plan that would lead to the trifurcation of the J&K state. “If all goes well, the Kashmir map would be changed and Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh would be created as the union territories,” they said.
The report claimed that the ‘division’ of the J&K territory would lead to the ‘resolution’ of many obstacles. “BJP knows that it cannot form a government in Jammu and Kashmir on its own and that it has to depend either on the National Conference or the People’s Democratic Party if it wants to come in power. Under such a situation of joint power-sharing with NC or PDP, Delhi cannot abrogate Article 370 of the constitution. An Indian official at the PM Office claimed that the Modi government would divide the J&K state before the general elections of 2019”.
The word “Final Solution” gives one creeps because of an ominous ring  which reminds one about the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem”, mentioned by Adolf Hitler in his autobiography, Mein Kampf. That final solution which he had designed resulted in the death of six million Jews and created the most notorious concentration camp of Auschwitz! Probably, some of the fanatic followers of Hindutva may be thinking on those lines in regard to Kashmir. Kashmiris to be reduced to a minority in Kashmir! However, the division of the state will not result in that. It will on the contrary create a unit of Kashmiris only with hundred percent Muslim population. Jammu will lose its importance as it is known only because of its association with Kashmir. Jammu as Jammu on its known is not so much known not only abroad but even in India itself. Ladakh does have an independent recognition as the “Little Tibet”. Incidentally, a famous statesman from Jammu, Balraj Puri died with his dream of Regional Autonomy. He did have a viable preposition but no body listened to him. Giving three regions internal autonomy within the overall State of J & K should not have been a problem. It would fulfil the regional aspirations without changing the overall character of the state.
The division of the State into three union territories would change its status in relation to the UN Resolutions passed regarding the final disposal of the erstwhile State of J & K. The case is still on the agenda of the UN Security Council and the UN observers continue to be stationed here. Unilateral division of the State without asking the people their choice violates the UN Mandate. It should normally invite immediate UN intervention. In fact, on the other side, the people living in the former Northern Areas now known as Gilgit-Baltistan had been clamouring for a long time to be declared the fifth province of Pakistan. The same could not be done by the Government of Pakistan because of the UN resolutions on the subject. Reportedly, the feeling there was that such an act would weaken Pakistan’s case. Accordingly, Pakistani’s gave them some sort of autonomy on the pattern of the Ladakh’s Hill Development Councils.
The recent contradictory declarations regarding holding of Indo-Pak foreign ministers meeting in New York and then its abrupt cancellation by India does not augur well. Additionally, the two Army Chiefs have issued somewhat belligerent statements. That straightaway forestalls any “Final Solution” as has reportedly been envisaged by the Prime Minister. That solution, if attempted, may be the spark not only to light a fuse of an unmanageable Indo-Pak conflict but may be the beginning of disintegration of the whole sub-continent.