Official claims on flood prevention plan fall flat; Faulty dredging, weak river embankments, continue to pose threat; Dredging plan shelved in March 2018
Srinagar, June 12: Just two-days of incessant rain in Kashmir is enough to trigger floods; courtesy unplanned dredging of river Jehlum, weak river embankments and ill-preparation of the government to deal with the rising waters. No lessons have been learnt from the deadly deluge of September 2014 that left over 100 people dead and property worth billions damaged.
Ever since the deadly deluge of 2014 wreaked havoc across the State, especially in the Kashmir region, nothing concrete was done on ground to prevent damage of such a huge volume. The PDP-BJP government made tall claims about dredging of river and raising the height of river embankments, but just two days of incessant rains from June 10 to 12 punctured the balloon as Kashmir was once again on the brink of floods.
Water level in river Jhelum at the crucial point Sangam in southern Kashmir went five feet above the normal and within few hours the position was threatening at Ram Munshibagh in Srinagar as well. A few hours of more rain could have resulted in the 2014 horror again, a group of locals told KNO as they were keenly watching rising water levels of roaring Jehlum at Ram Munshibagh.
A senior official in the Public Health Engineering, Irrigation and Flood Control department told KNO that it’s true that what is discussed in the meetings is not done on the ground. “We lag behind in preventive measures. We can’t prevent floods but can take measures to restrict the damage it causes. In today’s modern era, what we have as a contingency plan is sand bags to plug the breaches in river embankments,” he said.
Just the two days of rains resulted in many major breaches in Vaishow Nallah in South Kashmir that is the main tributary to river Jhelum.
According to the residents of Galander, Pampore, whenever there is a flood like situation, at least three to four major breaches take place at the same points that became the major reason for floods in 2014. “This reflects the callous approach of the government. Nothing concrete was done even after passage of four years,” Abdul Gaffar Rather, a resident of Pampore told KNO.
Another resident, Abdul Jabbar Khan, of Pampore told KNO all the former ministers, legislators, and officials have been lying to the people of Kashmir and keeping them in dark over preventive measures taken by the previous PDP-BJP regime. “The condition of river embankments right from Bijbehara to Pampore to Ram Munshibag is worst. Yes, some patchwork has been done but at majority of the places, river embankments are so fragile that they can give in any time,” he said.
Sources in the PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control department told KNO that over 200 meetings were held since September 2014 floods, but nothing concrete was done on ground. “There is a huge gap between planning and execution,” he said. The two-day rain spell in June this year has not only thrown the tall claims of the successive regimes about flood prevention plans to the wind, but made it clear that Kashmir has become more vulnerable to floods of late.
As per official figures, the Reach Dredging Limited, the company assigned the contract for Rs 46 Crore for dredging of river Jehlum, has only dredged out 13.88 lakh cubic meters in Kashmir against the target of 16.15 lakh cubic meters. “Operations of dredging were closed on 31 March 2018 in Kashmir,” an official told KNO, wishing not to be quoted by name.
In Srinagar, the official said, the company has dredged out 6.48 lakh cubic meters silt from river Jhelum against target of 7 lakh cubic meters during past three years. In Baramulla, the firm has dredged out 7.4 lakh cubic meters against the target of 9.15 lac cubic meters. The authorities have not so far penalized the firm for failing to meet the targets. Rs 35 crore have been released in its favour against the total contract of Rs 46 crore