Srinagar, Sep 04: The unprecedented devastation after the swollen rivers breached their banks, destroying thousands of homes and leaving a trail of destruction in 2014, did not stop destruction of water bodies in the Kashmir division. Environmentalists had warned that Kashmir might face the worst natural calamity in coming years if proper course correction of policies was not done.
Sources told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS) that land along the Jhelum and other rivers in the Kashmir valley being systematically taken over to establish housing colonies and other urban infrastructure, which has almost choked them.
Encroachment started in the late 1960s when new colonies were established on fertile agricultural fields and marshes which came to be known as Shivpora, Indira Nagar, Bemina, which got inundated in the 2014 floods.
Sources said that the construction of illegal structures, including residential houses, continues on the banks of the rivers. “The banks of the 165-km Jhelum, have been taken over in recent decades, which has vastly reduced the river’s drainage capacity, leaving little space for water to move,” said one of the environmentalist.
Reports said that since 1947, 50 per cent of water bodies within the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir have been converted into residential and commercial places.
However, one of the government officials said that the fight against encroachment was a long battle. “Decades of neglect and greed cannot be corrected in short time. We have a long-term flood management plan which will be implemented in phases,” the official maintained.
It is important to mention here that Deputy Commissioner Srinagar had ordered a comprehensive audit of encroachments and illegal constructions along the Jhelum River.
It was informed that a team headed by District Statistics & Evaluation Officer and comprising Executive Engineers of Irrigation & Flood Control Department, Tehsildars and other associated officials has initiated the audit on ground.
“Illegal constrictions raised without permission will also be audited and apart from action against encroachers proceedings will also be recommended against negligent officials in view of stringent building construction rules along the river and flood spill channels. During the initial audit as many as 95 encroachments have been identified. Directions have been issued to Assistant Commissioner Revenue to publish the names of encroachers asking to remove the encroachments and vacate the land within two weeks. Further action will be taken on subsequent reports of the audit committee. The officials have also observed building permissions obtained in prohibited zones of Jhelum river and flood spill channels over a period of time without obtaining the mandatory NOC of the flood control department. The audit will be completed in two weeks’ time which will be followed by a detailed investigation in each case and initiation of criminal proceedings. A team of revenue officials has been constituted by DC Srinagar for strong legal action in each case. These steps are being taken to safeguard the waterbodies, spill channels and river embankments” the government statement had said.