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Kashmir Floods: State’s response still confined to sounding alerts

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Jun 30: On Friday evening, when the Jhelum crossed the danger level, the government issued a flood advisory asking people to be vigilant.
Many families from the flood-prone areas shifted to safer areas as the water level in the Jhelum kept rising.
The shopkeepers in several areas started moving out goods from their shops.
This has become a common phenomenon in Kashmir in the aftermath of 2014 floods. As soon as the water level rises in the Jhelum even with moderate rainfall, people fear a deluge.
At the same time, the government has not taken any preventive measures to avoid such situations, as the valley had been at the verge of floods several times in the last three areas.
Professor Shakil Romshoo, an earth scientist, who conducted a detailed study on the devastating deluge that hit Kashmir in September 2014, posted on Facebook, “As long as we don’t embark upon a mission to identify emerging and long-term critical issues facing the state, (all environmental, disasters, social, economic and political), analyze the challenges using evidence-based knowledge, involving a wide range of expertise and prescribe strategies for addressing them through perspective planning, we are bound to suffer for all eternity and pay heavily time and again for our callousness and adhocism.”
Romshoo, who has been critical of government for failing to increase the carrying capacity, said, “There is need for setting up a policy ‘Think Tank’ providing direction and guidance to informed policy making for short- and long-term development plans in the state. Is it really ever going to happen here given the misplaced priorities of the successive governments and the rampant societal numbness?”
In the backdrop of 2014 floods, the government announced that it would take several measures to prevent floods.
“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,” an official of Irrigation and Flood Control Department said, wishing not to be quoted by name. “The department did nothing in this regard. Government at the top level has to take some measures. The government also announced of removing constructions along the Jhelum, but a big shopping mall is being constructed in flood channel.”
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 Jhelum.
According to a disaster management report, 13 districts in J&K out of 100 districts in India have been identified as ‘multi hazard districts’.
The I&FC official said that Wular Lake, which is the largest flood absorption basin has lost the water carrying capacity due to host of factors. “Several surveys have found that gross human interference, deforestation, encroachments, chocking of water ways and reduction in capacity of wet lands due to heavy siltation posing an imminent threat of floods even by average downpour,” the official said.
After 2014 deluge, the government had announced that dredging of river Jhelum would be completed by December 2016 to prevent floods in future. Although the dredging work has been started but was going at slow pace. It has been stalled for the last several months.
Government has also announced that an alternate flood channel would be constructed of Jhelum in Kashmir to prevent Valley from floods.
The 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.
“But during the last over three years, the detailed project report could not be framed,” the official said.
Another project was reconstruction of river Jhelum embankments that had crumbled at various places by 2014 floods.
On Friday and Saturday, locals were seen tending to 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.
A police official said that banks of river Jhelum got breached at various places due to rising water level.
“Empty sand bags already issued by district police to various subordinate units were put into use and repair works were taken up at almost all the points to prevent the water flow in civilian areas,” the police official said.
Chief Engineer I&FC, Muhammad Shahnawaz, said that measures were being taken to prevent Valley floods. “I can tell you as we are busy with the current situation. We will discuss it later,” Shahnawaz 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, 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. No work has been started for its implementation and it has been confined to papers,” 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. “Its men have also been assigned other duties like security,” an official of SDRF said.


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Disputes, lack of funds keep grid stations projects in limbo

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, May 18: Lack of funds and land disputes over towers have been delaying the completion of several grid stations in Kashmir.
There are several grid stations over which works have been started years ago. However, they are facing inordinate delay due to non-completion of construction of transmission towers, and laying of transmission lines.
One such project is Alastang grid station in Ganderbal district, on which work was started nine years ago.
“Although the work on Alastang grid station has been completed, the authorities have failed to resolve the land dispute for setting up towers over the years and connect Alastang with Zainakote grid. Presently this grid station is non-operational,” an official said.
He added that there is an immense load on Pampore and Zainakote power grids from where electricity is being supplied to Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Pulwama districts.
“Ganderbal gets electricity from Zainakote grid station and mostly remains overloaded,” the official said.
“Had the Alastang grid station been completed, it would have reduced the load on two existing power grids and helped the state to upgrade the power supply in the valley,” he added.
Similarly, an official document reveals that construction of grid station at Ahmedpora in Magam too has been put on hold.
“The work will be started as soon as the funds are released,” the document reads.
Completion of other grid stations at Lassipora Pulwama is also facing delay due to lack of funds or government’s failure in resolving the land disputes over towers.
The official said that existing transformers and power lines are also in bad shape. “There are technical snags in electricity due to poor power infrastructure,” the official added.
In a recent meeting, the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan directed for effective monitoring of ongoing works on grid stations and strict adherence to the design, drawing and specifications, and use of quality material for creation of durable assets. He has directed the concerned authorities to submit a proposal for arrangements of funds.
“Chief Engineer System and Operations PDD has been directed to pursue the matter with the concerned authorities for release of funds,” a source privy to the meeting said.

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Offices of 12 militant organisations operating from PaK sealed, funding stopped

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Srinagar, May 18: The offices of the 12 Kashmiri militant organizations operating from the Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) have been sealed, reported the newspaper Independent Urdu.
The newspaper reported that offices of all 12 organizations affiliated with the United Jihad Council were sealed, while as, the amount of office expenditure in these organizations has also been completely stopped.
Independent Urdu reported that the action has come in the backdrop of mounting pressure by the Financial Action Task Force or FATF.
This is the first time in last 32 years of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir that Pakistan has sealed the offices and also stopped financial assistance.
Recently, Pakistan took 44 members of proscribed organizations, including Mufti Abdul Raoof and Hamad Azhar — the former believed to be the brother of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar and the latter his son — in preventive detention for investigation.

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Ronaldo donates $1.5 million to fasting Gazans: Report

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Srinagar, May 18: Cristiano Ronaldo has donated $1.5 million to feed people in the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestine, against the backdrop of the holy month of Ramadan, Sputnik News reported.
The Portuguese football star has never hid the fact that he is pro-Palestine, expressing his support for Palestinians several times in the past.
In 2012 the 28-year-old star gave away his Golden Boot Award to the Real Madrid foundation, which subsequently auctioned it off to raise money for building schools in Palestine.
In 2013, he refused to swipe t-shirts with an Israeli player in a display of support for Palestinian rights.
Although he did shake hands, he excused himself by explaining that he could not wear a shirt with that country’s flag, press reported.
The incident occurred at the end of the match between Portugal and Israel for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
A 5-year-old boy Ahmad Daubasha — sole survivor of a Palestinian family attacked by Israeli settlers, was received by Ronaldo in 2016 at the Real Madrid training center, where he photographed himself with the boy, giving him a specially-dedicated t-shirt. The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007, greatly impacting living standards, levels of unemployment and increasing poverty.
Palestinians have held weekly rallies along the Gaza border to protest the siege on the enclave and demand the right for refugees to return to their homes they fled during the 1948 creation of Israel.
Pro-Palestinian celebrities range from longtime activists to musicians to younger stars, calling for boycotts of artistic and scientific gatherings, divestment from Israeli businesses, etc.
The Portuguese star is known as one of the most involved in humanitarian work around the world.

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