Time to wake up to Kashmir’s environmental disaster

THE Jammu and Kashmir State faced a devastating flood in Sep 2014. Many areas in the Jammu region and many parts of Kashmir valley, including the districts of Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Srinagar faced the brunt of those floods, which caused massive loss to property and agriculture. The administration in the state was caught napping and couldn’t deal with the crisis, whether of rescuing the marooned people or subsequent rehabilitation of the flood victims. Most victims still a proper response from the State to mitigate their loss. Experts claimed that this disaster was more of human making than that of nature. No doubt, incessant rains had lashed across the valley in early Sep, but the subsequent were more a disaster which was waiting to happen. Unregulated constructions, filling up of major water bodies, constructions on river banks and inside Dal Lake etc all played their role in adding up the fury of those floods.  

Even after such a major flood, the authorities in the State haven’t woken up to the ecological and environmental crisis that is staring the state in its face. Earlier this year, the valley was again at the brink of yet another flood. Of late, a new phenomenon is being witnessed in the ever changing meteorological map of the state. In the recent past, most parts of the valley have been witnessing cloudburst which have resulted in flash floods. A few days back, cloudburst in the Baltal area resulted in flash floods in the area, causing death of three people, including two children. This area serves as the base camp for the yearly Amarnath Yatra and many tents were washed away in these flash floods. Unlike rains, it is difficult to predict cloudburst and hence flash floods. With a State Govt that is least prepared to face any eventuality in case of heavy rains or floods, it is difficult to expect any measures to mitigate the effects of cloudburst or flash floods. But their unpredictability cant be an excuse for the state to do nothing. The broader causes of the changing weather patterns in the state are known to everyone and there have many reports by experts that have clearly pointed out the reasons for the same.

The onset of militancy in the State did not only destabilize the political and security situation in the valley, but also added to the ecological and environmental disaster in the state. The decade of the 90s witnessed unbridled deforestation in the valley, which resulted in the loss of green cover and vegetation. Also since the early 2000s, after militancy was reined in, the valley, especially Srinagar city has witnessed unregulated construction, without any proper planning. Most localities which have come up in the recent past have no proper layout and drainage system. Most constructions have taken place in low lying areas where there is no place for the water to exit and even a normal rainfall can cause major problems in such areas. It is time for the state government to wake up to the reality of changing weather patterns in the valley and undo much of what has led to this environmental disaster.

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