4-years after 2014 deluge: Govt has done everything possible to prevent floods—on papers
SRINAGAR, Sep 6: As the devastating flood of September 2014 completes four years, the government is yet to take any measures to avert similar disasters. On September 7, 2014, morning, the water level in the Jhelum rose above the danger mark and within an hour the water started entering into the residential areas. Most parts of Kashmir remained under water for over a week. The devastating floods resulted in deaths, while thousands of people were rendered homeless. After the flood, the government had made tall claims of preventing such disasters in the future. However, most of the government announcements have been confined to papers. It is now a common phenomenon in Kashmir that the water level in the river increases even with moderate rainfall. This was also seen in June this year, when the water level reached above the danger mark with moderate rainfall. It has been around four years since the government hired a Spanish firm to conduct a study on the river Jhelum for preventing floods. After the study, the firm has to submit recommendations to the government for framing a detailed project report for the flood mitigation. It has been asked to complete the task in two years. According to a disaster management report, 13 districts in J&K, out of the 100 districts in India, have been identified as ‘multi-hazard districts’. “Majority areas of the valley, especially Sonawari, Awantipora and Srinagar, along with parts of Jammu are prone to floods. Upper catchments of all the tributaries of the Jhelum, Indus, Chenab and Tawi rivers are prone to flash floods,” the report said. All these areas were worst hit by September-2014 floods and are prone to floods. The government had also announced that dredging in the river Jhelum would be completed by December 2016. The process was to be completed in two phases to increase its carrying capacity. After missing several deadlines, the deadline for phase I was extended to March 31 this year. “In this period, we achieved a target of 6.68 lakh cubic meter against the target of 7 lakh cubic meter in Srinagar,” an official of Irrigation and Flood Control Department said. Government has also announced that an alternate flood channel would be constructed of Jhelum in Kashmir to prevent Valley from floods. Union Ministry of Water Resources in December 2014 asked the state government for framing of the DPR for the 80-km Dogripora channel to be constructed from Awantipora in south Kashmir to Wular lake in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. “In the last over four years, the detailed project report could not be framed,” the official said. Another project was reconstruction of the river Jhelum embankments that had crumbled at various places by 2014 floods. However, in June when the water level rose above the danger mark, locals were seen tending Jhelum embankments at several places by placing sand bags to stop water from entering into the residential areas as these bunds were weakened by the floods in the past. “Nothing has been done in these years, except dredging at few spots and refilling of patches of Jhelum’s embankments, which were washed by 2014 floods,” the official said. In July 2015, the first-ever disaster management plan was approved by the cabinet headed by the then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. However, the official said there has been no implementation of the disaster management plan. “The government has failed to equip the agencies that could deal with disasters to mitigate sufferings of people at a time when any natural calamity hit the state,” an official of Revenue and Rehabilitation department, said. In 2012, two battalions of auxiliary forces were converted into State Disaster Response Force (SDRF). However, the SDRF is still “ill-equipped” and its forces are not in a position to deal with any emergency at the time of any natural calamity. A study titled ‘A satellite-based rapid assessment on floods in Jammu & Kashmir–September, 2014’ conducted jointly by the Department of Environment & Remote Sensing (DERS) and ISRO has warned that intensity of rainfall and frequency of rainy days in the Himalayan region may increase in 2030s, leading to another flood in Kashmir, if immediate steps are not taken to restore the drainage system of the Jhelum. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan said the government took several measures to increase the carrying capacity of water bodies.