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Dredging was long stalled, authorities were working on excuses


Srinagar, Jun 30: The long pending dredging work on river Jhelum is stalled for the last several months even as Kashmir Saturday grappled with yet another flood-like situation.
In the aftermath of September 2014 floods, the dredging of Jhelum was to be carried in two phases to increase its carrying capacity for preventing Valley from floods. The Rs-280 crore project for phase I was subsequently awarded to Kolkata based company to clear the excessive siltation that had accumulated and drastically reduced the carrying-capacity of river Jhelum.
After missing several deadlines, the deadline for phase I was extended to March 31, 2018. However, the company failed to meet the final deadline as well.
Consequently, over a period of four months, the project work has seen no progress. To make the matters worse, the unprecedented rainfall in the last few days has exacerbated the situation.
Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Rajbagh lamented over the failure of government in completing the dredging work in the set time-frame.
“Whatever work has been done till now has proved futile. I believe the carrying capacity has not increased at all. This is pretty evident by the way water levels increase at slight rainfall,” Ahmad said.
An official from Irrigation and Flood Control Department said, “In phase I, we achieved a target of 6.68 lakh cubic meter against the target of 7 lakh cubic meter in Srinagar.”
Asked why dredging work progressed at a snail’s space, the official wishing anonymity said, “It was not easy to carry out such projects in a volatile place like Kashmir. Other than administrative hassles, we received less cooperation from locals too”.
SE Hydraulic Circle Srinagar I&FC Er B L Bharadwaj acknowledged the firm’s failure in completing the project in stipulated period of time.
“Yes, the firm has been unable to meet the last deadline and work remains completed suspended at present. The fresh tenders will be issued soon,” he said.
Asked if the same firm will be hired for phase II, he said that they have hired a new company.
“The period of tendering and agreement with the firm has expired on March 31. The phase II will be taken over by a Delhi- based firm who are yet to issue with new instructions,” he said.
Commenting on the submission of Detailed Project Report (DPR) for phase 2, he said that they are yet to frame the report.
The dredging of the river Jhelum was to be carried in two phases and phase-I of the project was initiated in north and central Kashmir. For Bell Mouth to Panjinara stretch in Srinagar, the deadline for completing the first phase of dredging was January 2017 but the government extended the deadline to December 2017 due to 2016 unrest. And for Sopore to Baramulla stretch, the deadline for completing the first phase of dredging was September 2017.