Unplanned urbanization,encroachment of flood basins responsible for 2014 floods:Fmr Ambassador

Srinagar: Former Indian ambassador to various countries, Independent Director, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Distinguished Fellow & Senior Adviser (Climate Change), TERI, Mr. Ajai Malhotra today said that rapid and unplanned urbanization, encroachment of Valley wetlands and flood basins, and deforestation in the Jhelum River basin leading to silt accumulation in Srinagar’s water bodies primarily contributed towards the 2014 devastating floods that wreaked havoc in Srinagar and other areas of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr. Ajai Malhotra said this while delivering a sponsored special lecture on “Tackling the Climate Change Confronting India,” organised by the Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Central University of Kashmir (CUK) at Nowgam-I academic block of the varsity.  

Former vice-chancellor, University of Kashmir and Pondicherry University, Prof. Jalees Ahmad Khan Tareen presided over the function wherein CUK Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mehraj ud Din, Registrar, Prof M Afzal Zargar, Controller of Examinations, Dr. Nazir a Gilkar, Deans of various Schools, Head and Coordinators of other departments, and students were also present.

He said, “Houses have been built on floodplains and river beds, making drainage systems inadequate and reducing natural water storage areas. Channels leading into nearby wetlands have narrowed considerably over the last century due to encroaching structures. Nallahs have been replaced by roads and shops, wetlands have metamorphosed into residential colonies,” adding that reviving Srinagar’s natural drainage channels to serve as water drain is hugely important.

“An effective early warning system and accompanying response plan would be also crucial,” he further said.

He said that scientific evidence affirms that anthropogenic emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and several industrial gases, since the Industrial Revolution that started two and a half centuries ago have been changing the Earth’s climate. “There is now overwhelming scientific certainty that increasing GHG concentration in the atmosphere due to human activities has been the dominant cause of the observed warming of our planet since 1950. Over the years, the atmosphere and oceans have warmed. Snow, ice, permafrost and glaciers have reduced at the poles and elsewhere. Sea level has risen and oceans have become more acidic by absorbing more CO2. Several extreme weather events have intensified. Current GHG emissions are the highest in human history while atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level since at least 800,000 years. Over the last century, global temperatures have risen +0.8°C and sea levels by 20 centimeters. It is now over three decades that the world has not had a month when temperatures were below average. The rising temperature of recent years, rather than the relative stability of the past, has become routine. Irrespective of future GHG emissions, further warming is inevitable and more dramatic modifications could follow in our lifetime unless we urgently take corrective steps,” he added.

Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mehraj ud Din while addressing the gathering said, “those who are young, might not be aware about the demography of Kashmir and Srinagar in particular, what it was 30 years back. Citing an example of Nalae Maaer, he said “we used to see the boats carrying vegetables and rowing from one place to another in clear water.  Now today it is in the form of a road on which houses and shops have been constructed around it. Those residing know what they are facing over last three decades due to supposed modernization.”

Commenting on the deteriorating condition of Dal Lake, he said, “the water was used for drinking, and now it can’t be even used for washing hands. The lake is also shrinking towards extinction due to our apathy. We all have failed to restore the pristine glory of the Dal Lake.”

About the global warming, Prof. Mehraj ud Din Mir said that it is not only the developed countries, but the developing countries and underdeveloped countries are also contributing towards this major issue.

Former vice-chancellor, University of Kashmir and Pondicherry University, Prof. Jalees Ahmad Khan Tareen, described the lecture of Mr. Ajai Malhotra as thought provoking and based on analytical data giving detailed account about the global warming. “The developed countries have over the past 80 years have contributed to create the consequences which we are seeing today. The lavish use of natural resources, for example the wood is sufficient to wipe out the half the Indian forests. The onus and responsibility to safeguard the environment squarely lies on developed countries,” he added.

He added that the West has found alternative form of energy, but it is impressing upon other countries to avoid using fossil fuels. Prof. Tareen underscored the need of preserving the water bodies and wetlands.

Registrar, Prof. M Afzal Zargar, while speaking on the occasion said, “The topic has a huge relevance to every stakeholder. We have seen the ramification of climate change in the State of Jammu and Kashmir in recent past, particularly in Kashmir Valley in 2014 when incessant rains caused massive floods. We have seen the aftermath and we are still grappling with. Some of the other common issues that have risen due to global warming at Indian and global level include irregular monsoon, rising sea level and temperatures and consequent melting of glaciers. India is getting affected by this as it is primarily an agrarian country.

Associate Professor, Department of Management Studies conducted the programme proceedings while as Controller of Examinations, Dr. Nazir Ahmad Gilkar presented the vote of thanks.

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