Views from Srinagar
SRINAGAR and flood management are the two inseparable subjects and the two can’t be taken in isolation. Instead, the whole Srinagar basin stretched beyond the populated areas and including the adjoining water bodies, waterways and flood spill structures are part of any flood activity in this bowl. Many people believe that Kashmir floods have a fixed cycle and records of last more than a century also convey about a definite time cycle and pattern. However, the ecosystem of the valley was not under such stress, then, the way it is for last half a century. The pace at which our precious ground cover both on mountains and the plains of the valley is disappearing and because of other environmental mismanagements, it seems, in future not only all earlier flood cycle in Kashmir will go wrong but the patterns will be more ferocious.
The whole Kashmir valley particularly the Srinagar basin with main water carrying (draining) structures passing through its middle is sitting on a ticking ‘flood bomb’ that can explode any time with no or very little warning time. 2014 flood taught us many lessons regarding evolving punishing behavior of flood waters within a much-abused environment. These floods put to test our preparedness for such disasters and more significantly explored our social behavior in times of calamity and resilience factor as a race who are more often ridiculed for their selfishness and timidity! But it seems we as a nation and our flood management authorities have either forgotten the enormity of devastation of 2014 floods or have handed over their fate to the history and are waiting for the next cycle of bigger floods calmly and patiently as fait accompli. As I said during last many decades with overexploitation of our ecosystem and natural resources we have bruised the whole valley and its environmental features beyond recognition. So, all procedures and patterns of natural calamities got accelerate and floods are the worst to have a direct correlation with environmental degradation.
Since September 2014 undoubtedly the administration not only contemplated several short-term projects to augment the carrying capacity of existing water structure and bodies but have started seriously working on alternate flood-spill networks. However, the self-imposed inertia within our developmental and disaster management organizations; unabatedly creeping corruption at all levels and noncooperation of the general public has delayed these projects and time will come when we all will repent this delay. Particularly this year’s long dry spell was a blessing in disguise to cover last two years’ time loss for every stakeholder in flood management apparatus, particularly the state’s flood control department. Regrettably, the flood control departments cosmetic superficial operations of desilting the river Jhelum within the city limits with a couple of dredgers is appalling on part of this department that miserably failed the people of Kashmir in 2014. People are unable to comprehend, what prevented the successive governments to take action against the criminal approach and attitude of the managers of this department since 2014. They, at that time, failed even providing the basic information regarding the enormity of the disaster knocking at the doorstep, that too in a contemporary era of information, knowledge and ‘push a button’ satellite imagery technology.
Anyways, it is a matter of great concern, how our short-term measures are dying their own death! So, what will be the fate of our long-term projects that require extensive planning, huge funding and vast public cooperation and backing? This casual approach and criminal negligence of ours will not only alter the unforgettable flood patterns of Kashmir but will definitely make the ticking flood bomb to explode much earlier than expected with enough wildness to finish the whole Kashmir. In the present catastrophic state of our ecosystem where we are unable to stop even the further vandalization of our catchment areas—the cradle of furious floods, how can we manage an incessant downpour for more than few days? Time has come we as a nation and our administration has to get out of the spells of ignorance and selfishness and work on a three-dimensional strategy. Firstly, to stop further damages to the existing eco-system, second put all existing projects related to flood control and management on a fast track with harsher penalty clause both for the executing agency and the supervising authority. And last but not the least shape and strengthen our non-existing disaster management mechanism that can efficiently manage and will help in minimizing the collateral damage in case of a disaster.