The devastating floods that struck Kashmir in 2014 left behind a trail of destruction, causing loss of thousands of crores of rupees. The Valley is still reeling from its fallout. The Ministry of Home Affairs’ recent call for corrective measures to prevent such disasters from recurring is a timely step towards safeguarding the Valley from a future flood, or at least minimizing its destructive fallout..
The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), under the Ministry of Home Affairs, has released a comprehensive report titled ‘Kashmir Floods 2014 – Recovery to Resilience.’ The report serves as a stark reminder of the catastrophic consequences that unplanned development can bring. It highlights the need for coordinated action and well-preparedness in the face of natural calamities.
One of the major casualties of the 2014 floods was the healthcare system. With 102 institutions of the Directorate of Health Services in Kashmir affected, four of the five major hospitals in Srinagar had to be shut down, leaving thousands of people without access to medical care. The Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar and Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) were submerged for weeks, rendering them non-functional and exacerbating the crisis.
Moreover, the education sector suffered significant damage, with thousands of primary and middle school buildings collapsing or partially damaged. The disruption in educational services persisted for up to three months, impacting the future of our children..
The housing sector in Kashmir also bore the brunt of the floods, incurring massive losses amounting to over Rs 30,000 crore. The magnitude of these damages underlines the urgency of implementing measures to prevent such devastation in the future.
The report rightly points out the need for flood forecasting and early warning systems. At present, there are three hydrological stations installed on the River Jhelum, which runs through Kashmir, but they are primarily used to monitor water flow between India and Pakistan, not as flood forecasting stations. Integrating these stations into a comprehensive flood warning system can help authorities initiate timely evacuation, deploy emergency response teams, and provide relief supplies to vulnerable communities.
Another critical aspect highlighted by the report is the deficiencies in the institutional system and the allocation of responsibilities during natural disasters. The lack of District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMA) in most districts of the Union Territory and delays in damage and needs assessment highlights the need for a more robust and streamlined disaster management framework.
To address these issues comprehensively, there is an urgent need to institutionalize disaster management in the region. Allocating and utilizing funds from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) effectively will ensure preparedness and timely relief during emergencies.
As Kashmir seeks to recover from the scars of the 2014 floods and build resilience against future calamities, the lessons learned from this tragedy must be heeded. It is imperative for all stakeholders, including the central and the UT government, to work together to implement corrective measures and invest in disaster management policies, early warning systems, and well-coordinated response mechanisms.
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