(The trauma caused by the disastrous flood of 2014 makes living in Srinagar’s low lying colonies virtually a continuous nightmare, especially during the rainy days!)
The recent flood caused by just a couple of days of continuous rain created a wave of panic among the people living in different parts of Srinagar especially those in the low lying areas of the city. Some of them had even started moving towards safer places and some had taken their possessions to upper floors! This is the third nightmare. The first one was last year and the second one early this year. It is truly living with nightmares!
The capacity of the River and the flood channel has been so much reduced that even a short spell of rain of couple of days creates a flood like situation. Nothing tangible has been done by the concerned departments during these four years. Rather both the River and the spill over channel have got more silted and further reduced in capacity because of encroachments on the embankments. Floods in Kashmir are a part of the history. These have been very devastating in the past also. Historically, Kashmir has suffered immensely due to floods which have often resulted in famine. However, in the recent times the only devastating flood in the living memory was the 2014 flood which inundated the capital city of Srinagar. According to reports a flood of such magnitude had occurred almost after a century! Experts, say such massive flood had been caused by the combination of western weather disturbances with the spill over of monsoons. There were innumerable cloud bursts over the mountains. According to satellite pictures, the main River had almost disappeared and there was a couple of kilometres wide sheet of water moving all along downstream!
Most of the inundated places in Srinagar had over 20 feet of water. All the posh colonies of the capital were under water for almost 20 days or so. Fortunately, there was not much loss of life due to the voluntary efforts of the people and the assistance of the Air Force and Army Engineers. However, there was immense loss of property and peoples’ possessions. The overall material loss ran into thousands of crores! People in some colonies had to stay in the top most floors or in the attics of their houses for almost a week before they were rescued. It was truly the worst nightmare of their lives!Most of the experts who analysed the disaster had observed that the flood was due to extreme vandalisation of the environment in the catchment areas and usurpation of the flood basin of the River. Incidentally, the River which gave life to Kashmir has been fully vandalised and desecrated by us. The muck and filth of almost entire Kashmir is made to flow into the River. Its banks have been encroached in most places especially in the city of Srinagar. For last half a century or so no one has bothered to dredge it and take away the silt. Over and above everything else its flood basin has been snatched and converted into colonies. Where else will it go except overflow its banks and sometimes may even change course. Most of the wetlands and water bodies have either been filled up or encroached upon. The historical channel Nala-i-Mar has been filled up and converted into a road. We have hardly left any space for the extra water to flow anywhere. In the catchment areas, most of the rain water would normally get absorbed but now it runs down straight as we have totally denuded the catchment area of the River. In view of this we will always face the nightmare of a disastrous flood after every heavy rainfall even if it lasts only for a couple of days as happened recently.
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!
It has been often observed that most of the elected so called “popular” governments are corrupt to the core. Incidentally, at present we have a one man government which is honest, strong and a go getter. Having been a mountaineer and headed the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, he knows how to face the risks and get things done! People honestly feel that this systemshould continue till the city is secured against these not natural but man-made disasters. For a change the hordes of so called “political leaders” who have been virtually acting as leeches need to be sent on a holiday. A large number of non-resident Kashmiris who have been alarmed by the recent nightmare suffered by their kith and kin, in their comments too have observed that the present set up should continue till all the flood prevention measures are fully implemented. Will Delhi take a note of it! Let us hope they do?
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir