Kashmir 2014 flood: lesson for none

Kashmir Magazine

On May 5, Advisor to Lt Governor Baseer Ahmed Khan today asked for establishing more EOCs, stocking up of sandbanks at the vulnerable Jhelum and Doodganga embankments and other capacity development initiatives. This a repetition of a story which is told every year. It has almost been six years now since September 2014 floods which are called a disastrous flood of the century in J&K. It is a pity that all of us have learnt no lessons from that disastrous flood. The successive government wasted six precious years in increasing the capability and capacity of flood mitigation. It is not only the Government which is to be blamed, but people here are equally responsible for damaging the environment. Encroachments of the wetlands which play a very important role in controlling flood in the region is one the reasons of floods. As per a report of the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing, there are 1,230 lakes and water bodies in the state with 150 in Jammu, 415 in Kashmir and 665 in Ladakh. Dal Lake which once covered an area of 1200 Sq km has almost been reduced to one-sixth of its original size. Similarly, the water carrying capacity of Jelhum River which acts as natural drainage has shrunk considerably in Kashmir. In the recent past, the Drive to free the Jehlum banks from encroachment was more for beautifying the banks than actually increasing its capacity. Moreover, it is not just the encroachment, but garbage dumping is also chocking the drainage channels and the water bodies. Unplanned urbanization has led to the conversion of large-scale watershed area of lakes to residential and commercial estates. The land-owning agencies who decide what has to be done to which parts have miserably failed –either giving up for corruption or political powers. They fill up the water bodies and show these as cases of change in land-use patterns. Leaving politics and other vested interests aside, the dredging needs to be sincerely done at the institutional level in Jelhum from Anantnag to Uri. It should be followed by strong legislation against river bank encroachers. If someone has to understand the seriousness of the state government in enhancing disaster management capacities, then a recently released report which says only Rs 71 crore out of Rs 1500 crore World Bank project has been spent in four years.