Flood Redux

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A daylong rainfall and Kashmir is brought to the brink of yet another flood. Alarm bells go off across the Valley as Jhelum steadily surges with each hour of the rain. This has created a very disturbing situation. This easy susceptibility to flood has become a source of new uncertainty in Valley. The latest scare was the second in this year. Early in March, an uninterrupted 48-hour spell of showers had created havoc. It washed away steel bridges, cracked open roads and made concrete houses collapse. It caused the Jhelum swell and brought it to the point of spilling over its embankments and into Srinagar. But just then the rain stopped. The surging Jhelum slowly went down to its normal level and people heaved a collective sigh of relief. In Budgam, 16 members of two families were buried alive when the earth under house their house caved in. Wednesday and Thursday’s rain almost replicated this frightening scenario. 

In Srinagar, the rain played on the people’s worst fears. Most residents in the vulnerable areas stayed awake through the night, fearing the river might catch them unawares as it had done last September. Many families contemplated evacuation from the posh colonies of Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh etc.  Lal Chowk, the city’s commercial hub, was once again waterlogged, forcing shopkeepers to quickly relocate their merchandise. 

The rain created havoc in South Kashmir districts of Anantnag and Pulwama. The Vaishaw Nallah waters once again breached its banks ad submerged areas in Kulgam. Similarly, overflowing of Brengi and Sandran streams inundated Dangerpora, Achajipora and Danter areas in Anantnag district. Jhelum embankment also breached near Drangbal and Kakapora and water overflowed into residential areas. But the timely effort of the locals managed to plug the breach. But amidst all this scare, the government fared no better than its predecessor. While the waters were wreaking havoc across a wide swathe of Valley, the Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control, Javid Jaffar told people there was no cause for alarm. So did the education minister Naeem Akhter.  This only shows that despite all the flood devastation that Valley has gone through over the past year, lessons have not been learnt. However, the larger crisis confronting us is not about the behaviour of the government when the floods face us but how to stave them off when we are experiencing extended spells of rain.  

There is now a perennial question mark over Srinagar city – a city of 1.3 million people. A substantial chunk of its population living in the close vicinity of Jhelum, besides markets and the vital government installations such as health, administrative and security infrastructure that could once again be swamped. Over the past ten months, the government has undertaken fewer measures to lessen the prospect of an immediate flooding following extended rain. So, in effect, Srinagar and the rest of the Valley is as prone to deluge as it was in September last. Yet another flood scare should be enough to jolt the state government out of its existing easygoing approach on not only the rehabilitation of the last year’s flood-hit but also on how to pre-empt or at least effectively deal with another calamity. As things stand, the Government has chosen to leave people to God’s mercy.

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