Kashmir unrest taking heavy toll on desilting of river Jehlum

Srinagar: The ambitious Rs 399 crore Jhelum dredging project to increase the depth of the river has been moving at snail’s pace as the dredging company which was tasked by the government has been unable to fully dredge the silt of river due to the current unrest in valley.

However the Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control Javid Jaffar when contacted by KNS though admitted that dredging was halted for quite some time, said that the operation has now been resumed at all the locations.

On contrary sources blamed that since the dredging company has started the work, the firm has actually failed to achieve the dredging target.

The devastating floods of September 2014 had caused extensive siltation in river Jhelum as huge amount of silt from mountainous catchments settled in the river, thus drastically affecting its carrying capacity and hydrological system.

Post floods the Government of India had approved Rs 399 crore flood management plans for Jhelum to increase carrying capacity of the river and its flood spill channel. The project also envisaged acquisition of land at Shariefabad on city outskirts to make the existing flood spill channel fully functional.

Sources said that the staff of the dredging agency fled soon after the unrest began in the valley. “It was difficult to move machines from one place to another. They had no option left but to shut their operation,” one of the senior officials of the flood control department said.

He said though the target of completion of dredging in Srinagar was to be March 2016 and for Baramulla December 2017, but it seems that the project will be much delayed.

Kolkatta based Reach Dredgers that bagged the Rs 46 crore tender were tasked with mechanical dredging of 16.15 cum silt and riverbed material (7,00,000 cum in the Srinagar stretch and 9,15,000 cum in Baramulla stretch). Out of this government will get Rs 12 crore back in lieu of sale of desilted material.

Meanwhile sources blamed that the company has so far failed to achieve the target of dredging. “The operating company has been in the news for all the bad reasons. Frequent breakdown of machines, selection dredging spots according to their ease and non-availability of desired results have been plaguing the dredging project,” sources in flood control department said.

They said that funding has also been one of the biggest hindrances in the smooth progress of the project. “Against the total project cost of Rs 399 crores, Government of India has released only Rs 20 crores,” sources said and added that if the department would have received money on time, the dredging project would have been in advanced stages of completion.

He further said that even as there has been some progress on dredging, the ground work on land component is yet to start.

Originating from Verinag in South Kashmir, Jhelum spans over 175 sq.kms from south to north Kashmir. It is joined by four streams, Sundran, Brang, Arapath and Lidder in Islamabad (Anantnag) district. Besides, small streams like Veshara and Rambiara also feed the river with fresh waters. The river settles in Wullarlake before flowing to Pakistan administered Kashmir through Baramulla district.

After the completion of the dredging project the department estimates that the water carrying capacity of Jhelum and its flood channel would increase from present 32 cusecs to 45 cusecs. One cusec is the flow of one cubic feet water in one second at any given point. In September 2014 Jhelum received a record 120,000 cusecs of water thus flooding areas from South to North. The dredging project wouldn’t completely eliminate the risk of floods but it would go a long way in managing the flood waters to ease the suffering of people in the event of a catastrophe like 2014. (KNS)

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