After the 2014 deluge  


Again flood waters are knocking at our doors, and we are praying for rains to stop. Please don’t trouble us again, and again. We are again at crossroads, and it reminds us the disastrous flooding that occurred in September 2014. It ruined the already crumbling future of Jammu and Kashmir, and left the marks of great pain, agony, and trauma. It was an economic disaster and turned Kashmir into a large muddy swimming pool. But will mere prayers help one in healing of the wounds that are always carved deep-within us whenever a disaster strikes. The answer is no. This is because actions speak louder than words. This does not mean that prayers will not change something in one but it strongly emphases the importance of working to solve a problem. Therefore to solve the flood hazards we ought to understand the flooding process.  We do understand that flooding is largely a natural phenomenon and it gets complicated by interaction of various components of the hydrologic cycle, which includes life and particularly humans. Thus the role of humans also play an important role in flood hazards. It is natural thus that to understand the flood science we ought to understand the various components of the hydrologic cycle plus geological foundations, particularly soil. The geologic origin and formation of the Kashmir basin is still being debated in the scientific discourse. This is mainly because there are a number of questions that still remain unanswered. Nevertheless, a significant portion of past contributions have enlightened us on its origin, and these studies argue that Kashmir basin was formed as a result of the continent-continent collision of Indian and Eurasian plates. And a number of faults have played a major role in its present architecture. The foundations rocks are primarily marine sedimentary rocks (formed in ocean) together with volcanic and plutonic rocks (igneous type). On top of these two major rock units is deposited a thick sequence, about 1,300 meters, of young sediments, which were derived from the rising mountains carved by rivers and glaciers, and subsequently deposited in the Kashmir Valley. Most of us live on top of these sediments.



 A brief interpretation of the rocks and sediments in Kashmir region tells us that our valley was initially a part of an ocean, and later that ocean was closed. This happened during the mighty Himalayan Mountain building processes (known as Himalayan Orogeny) when two major landmasses (India andspan Eurasia) collided. This process formed spectacular mountains, rivers, and a range of geomorphic features. One of such outcome is the stunningly beautiful Kashmir Valley.


A brief interpretation of the rocks and sediments in Kashmir region tells us that our valley was initially a part of an ocean, and later that ocean was closed. This happened during the mighty Himalayan Mountain building processes (known as Himalayan Orogeny) when two major landmasses (India and Eurasia) collided. This process formed spectacular mountains, rivers, and a range of geomorphic features. One of such outcome is the stunningly beautiful Kashmir Valley, which is carved out of hard geological rock units that stand and guard it from all sides. Our work has established major faults have played a key role in shaping its design, and the active movement on some of these faults is still modifying its overall look. This valley was later filled with a thick load of sediments, derived from the rising mountains through erosion, carried by the rivers and glaciers. The drainage system is a key witness to the contiguous modifications of topography and geology that this region has seen over the geological past. Although still controversial, a significant portion of the previous studies have established that Kashmir valley was a huge lake, which means that the whole region was under water for a long period of time.


Therefore, the Kashmir basin, like other basins, is mainly shaped by tectonics and climate. It seems an active interaction between tectonics and climate often results in different landforms and climatic products that we see around us. Kashmir region has preserved these tales in sediments, topography, geology, geomorphology and drainage. Only a future study will unravel the complete chronology of geological and climatic events in this part of the world.


Importantly, the historical records of various flooding episodes in Jammu and Kashmir clearly demonstrate that climate change is not the major reason of flooding. In fact, it is clear from the study of topography and geomorphology that flooding episodes are shaped by topography, which are linked to tectonics, and it seems a bad climate aggravates it, which could be because of multiple reasons. Therefore, we ought to understand the reasons for changes in precipitation (rain) over the geological history of the region, not just few hundred years of our existence. And what role life, particularly humans have played in it. Urbanization is considered as one of the major concerns for disastrous floods, which is linked to various developments and unplanned structures that humans directly influence. Thus, it is highly required to map the total extent of human induced changes on lithosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere and compare such changes over the geological past when there was no human interference. Once such a comprehensive study is done it is only then that we can pinpoint the causes of the changes that we are currently going through.


Although a larger number of serious scientific works have established that increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide gas over the decades have caused increase in temperature. But, it is still not clear how such variations work on a geological timescale as the proportion of carbon dioxide was much higher during the early stage of the planet Earth. Plus the fact that carbon-dioxide is not the only driver of climate. This becomes obvious when we look at the composition of the air that we breathe. It mainly contains nitrogen (~76%) and oxygen (~21%). The concentration of carbon dioxide is JUST ~0.038% and the first two major gases in our atmosphere are NOT greenhouse gases, which means that there concentration has little to no effect on warming of the atmosphere. To understand this beautiful atmospheric phenomenon we need to know the conditions that govern the greenhouse effect on our planet. The role of Sun is central to the existence of life on the Earth as it provides heat that is required to keep the temperatures in balance. Before reaching the Earth the rays of sun have to pass through atmosphere where filtering occurs, and most of the life threatening rays are automatically filtered out by the upper atmosphere. We ought to very thankful for this service, it saves our existence. The remaining rays reach ground and heat it up. Once it gets heated the atmosphere just above the ground gets heated up because of the rays that are now reflected back from the heated surface of the Earth. It mainly emits infrared light. And importantly the majority of Earth’s atmosphere (N2 and O2) are not good greenhouse gas. However, the small amount of greenhouse gases (mainly water vapor, and little of CO2) traps (absorb and re-emit) the infrared radiation, increasing the temperature of the atmosphere. Apart from this there are also small percentage of naturally occurring other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which includes methane and nitrous oxide. And humans has also contributed some new varieties of synthetic greenhouse gases, which include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), as well as sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).


These gases have also influenced the temperature structure of our atmosphere over the decades of industrial revolution on the planet. So here we are; the present concentrations of gases in our atmosphere are both natural and man-made. The contribution of each gas in modifying the concentration of greenhouses gases in our atmosphere is still vigorously debated, and we are yet to solve this problem. However, humans ought to be responsible not to aggravate the obvious problems that we are facing right now, and must workout solution for a better future. Please remember that Earth is a delicate system of systems, and we are part of it, any of our wrong actions can alter its delicate balance, which will ultimately destroy life, including us.






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