Looming floods!

We need a long term strategy to save ourselves from this disaster.

Floods can only be managed to minimize damages during and after the event and not controlled as most of the people think. 2014 floods washed everything in its way and left a lasting mark on our psyche. People are yet to come out of devastating suffering and feel scared of any spell of rains lasting more than a couple of days. This spring was mostly wet. More importantly this winter we had more than enough snow in higher reaches creating a huge bank of water in the mountains. So, by all estimations, we are most probably waiting for an impending fury of floods that too with a crumbling infrastructure to handle such floods and the aftermath. God forbid if things won’t turn in our favor an angry flood is again looming large on our heads! The recent cycle of few warmer April days followed by rains many times created an alarming situation throughout the valley with gushing tributaries, overflowing Jhelum and brimming flood spill channel. For most of the April, this year the whole administration and the people remained on toes because of flood scare.Environmental coordination, particularly the climatic cycle are strictly governed by nature with very little effect (that too adverse) by human intervention. So no power on earth can predict or stop the nature’s rage. However, mankind with huge infrastructure and experience at its command can minimize the impact of floods and can have a well-planned strategy to handle the aftermath of floods. Unfortunately, we are lacking both the infrastructure and will to handle the situation. Most of the people both in administration and the masses were of the opinion that 2014 floods taught our flood managers a lesson to chalk out best plans to tackle future floods. But even after more than two years, our flood management authorities are yet to come out of deep slumber. Taking refuge under unrest and red-tape-ism the authorities are unable to show any substantial progress: leaving alone the long term plans like secondary flood spill channel construction even the short-term flood control measures of dredging and strengthening of embankments particularly within Srinagar city are yet to be taken up in a big way. Dredging flood channel without proper planning in a haphazard manner and allowing unplanned bridge construction and other structures within the flood spill channel most often compounds the situation and encourage breaches.

Lack of proper planning and ignorance regarding management of river Jhelum—the only drainage line of the valley is one of the reasons of our unpreparedness and is quite visible from our dredging strategy.  Preferring and confining dredging process only in the river stretch within Srinagar city and ignoring most important segments of Sopore and Baramulla speaks volumes about our flood management plans.

During the normal course of water flow mechanism in river Jhelum, the water flows gently from Khanabal to Khadanyaar the two real navigationally vital extreme ends of the valley. However, at the time of floods by all standards, the whole valley basin along with its numerous excess water intake structures turn into a huge water bowl with its downward grade on the northern end near Baramulla (culminating with the extreme slope at Khadanyaar).  For managing such floods or even the smooth drainage of excess water out of the valley speedily the most important section that requires extensive digging intervention is river section beyond Waular Lake up to Khadanyaar. Significantly, most of the extensive dredging during Maharaja’s rule was done in this area. That was the start of flood control and dredging era in Kashmir. Even now huge abandoned parts of imported dredgers are visible in Baramulla and Khadanyaar areas. In Srinagar Waular segment of Jhelum, there is limited scope for dredging as the grade is gentle and has to be maintained strictly to the lowest level of Waular bed beyond that it will be useless. Unless and until flood managers will work as true professionals, they will always end up and be in the habit of issuing an advisory only at the time when flood waters reach our doorstep. State government should rise to the occasion and constitute a high-level flood management authority taking world class human resource on board and with sweeping legal, administrative and financial powers to start and speed up short-term measures of flood management and plan a long-term strategy for saving land and life of valley from angry floods.