Small lessons learnt

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/3/2014 11:36:26 PM

Large scale devastation calls for massive and sincere planning for flood control systems

An occasion marked by massive destruction caused by unprecedented floods in history of over one century, as tens of thousands of houses have been flattened besides loss of human lives and property in Jammu and Kashmir, is an opportunity for the planners to ponder over the future. It is also time to learn some lessons from the follies, the people, politicians and planners have committed over the past one century by encroaching upon the low-lying areas, marshy lands, carving out new residential colonies and construction of houses on reclaimed water bodies, lakes and close to the flood channels. These are the areas, which used to absorb excess of surface water either from rains or from the flooded streams. New constructions of houses in low-lying areas around Srinagar city, particularly in the greed to earn quick money by the politicians and land mafia gangs patronized by the former, have landed people in soup for no fault of theirs. Two decades of lesser river water discharge during the floods have made the people and colonisers forget everything about the hazards of such floods that were witnessed in September this year. Moreover, the areas close to the flood channels have been encroached upon by the people for housing and by the government agencies for raising government offices which have only added to the dangers of flood prone areas. Apart from this, construction of the raised new Bye Pass Road connecting Athwajan and Hyderpora has only led to blocking of flood waters from the flood channels and Jhelum river. The vast tracts of open lands, which were available to absorb flood waters have now been blocking the free flow of water. This has only obstructed flood waters from flowing down and settling on the plains instead of inundating the urban areas of erstwhile Srinagar city. Moreover, no empty spaces or drainage points have been left for the water to move away from the flood channels and its natural course in Lasjan belt. The water bodies of Anchar Lake, Nallamar and Dal Lake have been encroached upon from various places obstructing the flow of water to the Jhelum river during floods. This is the time to give a serious thought to needs of growing of urbanization and redesign not only the houses but also the colonies to save large chunks of population from such an eventuality in future.
Apart from this, other flood protection measures that were taken to divert the flow of water from Jhelum to other open areas has been obstructed by raising of abutments without taking into consideration dredging of river beds and flood channel beds. The de-silting and dredging operations, which were carried out on annual basis to accommodate excess flood waters have been restricted to files and papers only and all money meant for this purpose is either looted from the treasury or works completed on papers and files. Unfortunately, the funds are drained out from the state exchequer by the corrupt politicians for filling up their pockets without caring for what can be the consequences of such irresponsible behavior. It is almost more than three decades that the people living close to the flood channel do not remember when the last de-silting and dredging operations were undertaken by the authorities concerned to remove garbage from there. The flood channel has become a dumping ground for the municipal authorities right from Anantnag to Baramulla and no thought is spared for pollution created by such activities. This has also helped in raising the level of beds during the past so many years. What happens to millions of sand bags procured at the cost of the state exchequer every year by the concerned departments is not known. In fact, this time also, the flood control department claimed that its men and machinery were ready to check breach of river banks during floods. None from the government has come up even for justification as to what happened to the sand bags kept ready for flood protection measures. Another lesson to learn is how best the authorities can forecast floods in rivers in whole of J&K besides keeping the emergency measures in place to come to the rescue of the marooned people. A thought should also be spared for vacating the vast tracts of land available for the water bodies and flood channels so that flood waters can be tackled without causing losses to human habitations in future.



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