Fear Of Rain

IT has been intermittently raining in the Valley over the last two days with high-altitude areas receiving the snowfall. This has resulted in a sharp drop in temperature in June, a time for the sweltering summer heat.  But the decline in temperature is the least of concern for people in Kashmir who fear that an extended rainfall in summer could lead to flooding on the pattern of 2014. And these are legitimate fears considering we are still far from building credible safeguards against the prospect of a future flood. A recent report pointed out that the project to enhance the carrying capacity of Jhelum is yet to be fully completed as the J&K government is awaiting the release of funds from the central government for Phase 2 of the Jhelum Flood Management plan. The centre has already earmarked Rs 1623 crore for the comprehensive flood management of Jhelum and its tributaries.

The project was conceived in the wake of the 2014 deluge that sank Srinagar and some other parts of the Valley and killed over 300 people.  Ever since J&K, particularly the Valley has lived in dread of a repeat of yet another big flood. In Srinagar, people fear that an extended uninterrupted spell of rain might yet again lead to Jhelum spilling over its banks.

This has created a deeply disturbing situation in the Valley. We are, time and again, reminded of our hapless vulnerability to flooding whenever there are two or more days of uninterrupted rain in a warmer season. More so, in Srinagar whose new-found susceptibility to flood threatens to put a question mark on its viability as a summer capital. That is, unless we conceive and execute a course of action that drastically reduces this vulnerability.

If anything, it highlights how little has been done by way of infrastructure building  to protect the  Valley from flooding. Less than two days of rain creates flood-like conditions. What it means is that in the past eight  years, we have not been able to increase the capacity to protect ourselves from the fallout of an increase in precipitation in summer. The legitimate question to ask is what were the previous governments doing in these years. Or what has the dredging of Jhelum and the repairing of its embankments done in terms of enhancing our capability to resist the flood.   One can only hope that the current administration understands the enormity of the challenge and sets about in right earnest building our defences against a repeat of the 2014 scenario, which could be sooner than we are prepared for.

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