The Looming Threat

Are we in for the next flood?

2014 floods taught us much bigger lesson. This flood exposed our preparedness against such natural disaster of higher magnitude. Kashmir valley over the period of time has experienced a definite cycle of floods and may be our flood managers drawing hypothetical conclusions from the flood cycles and patterns will be expecting next large flood around 2114. But we should bear in our mind that next flood will not adhere to any set pattern because during last more than five decades we have not been so caring and kind towards our mother earth as was the case with our ancestors. We have greatly fiddled with the forest cover in catchment areas and ruined other ground cover to the extent of stripping. In absence of quality ground cover massive erosion have not only robbed our earth of it precious soil cover, but reduced excess water withholding and overall water holding capacity of our water bodies.Repeatedly discussing extremely bad experience and sufferings of 2014 floods will be of no use and any importance, but drawing lessons from that experience for future strategies is of immense importance. Preserving our ecosystem dedicatedly and upgrade scientifically prudent preparedness for future floods are two important lessons that 2014 floods showed us to give a serious consideration. For environmental concerns we have to rise above all considerations as a strong nation and decide between existence and devastation as no authority, but our own collective conscience will resolve the issue of our quality survival. However, infrastructural development for preparedness against future floods and management of runoff water to avoid destruction is the sole responsibility of flood managing agencies working within the framework of administration.

To manage and improve infrastructure for management of floods we have a full-fledged department of ‘Irrigation and flood control’. This department has a long history and had done a commendable work in past. Its area of operation is vast, its infrastructure and assets are located in almost all parts of the valley. But, unfortunately this department and its leadership failed miserably in 2014 and were unable to predict the level of submergence and devastation on the basis of their past experience and available data even after getting enough time to determine the overflowing water from the catchments. Maybe there were several other reasons related to administration, law and order and political implications for failure and misleading the public, but as professionals this department and its leadership should have managed the situation professionally. Instead they stuck to an age old Kashmiri saying, ‘yueeps demvaa shupp’ meaning a massive flood can’t be dealt with petty barrages. Past is past now, like all other agencies handling 2014 floods the follies of this department also stand drowned into the ocean of forgiveness. But this nation cannot afford to repeat the worst history of 2014 floods and has every right to ask the stakeholders about their planning and preparedness for future floods. They are accountable before the poor gullible people of this land always living under the threat of natural calamities.

Records reveal 2014 size flood repeated after almost hundred years, so what were our flood managers doing all these years? No doubt their role in facilitating irrigation facilities to farming community is appreciable as area of irrigated land in Kashmir has increased many folds since 1947, but that does not absolve them of their prime responsibility to plan proper flood management and augment excess water carrying and handling capacity of our rivers and waterways. Since September 2014 what are they doing to improve the flood control facilities, or will they again play ostrich at the time of next floods that is looming on our heads due to accelerated ecological degradation? Department of Irrigation and flood control has to come clean on all accounts as they cannot hide behind jugglery of misinterpreting the data and figures of discharge and carrying capacity of our rivers and other waterways and surplus water holding capacity of our water bodies. They cannot shy away from placing the facts before public and resort to drums beating in their publicity and propaganda programs on mass media. This department has to come out of slumber and prove that in 2014 it was not their fault, but instead nature and politics played with the sentiments and expectations of people of Kashmir. And now is the time for this department to prove itself to the expectations of people.