Srinagar city is known for lakes and water bodies. Dal lake is a world famous tourist attracting water body, and has become the land mark for this historical and heritage city. During last seven decades we have seen that our local engineers have played an important role in construction of the buildings in government and public sector, laying of road net work, and thereby strengthening the basic infrastructure in the overall economic development of Kashmir valley. But it can be said without any hesitation that two branches of engineering department - Flood and Irrigation, and PHE - are not keeping pace with the modern technology, and the over all needs of the public.
The flood and Irrigation department has almost failed in preserving the water bodies, wetlands, irrigation canals and brooks. The concerned authorities have been very callous towards the upkeep and maintenance of the flood channels, particularly post 1990 period. The deluge of 2014 is a great example of its failure.
One can hardly find any irrigation kul ( canal) working efficiently in rural surroundings of Srinagar city. Most of the Kuls meant for irrigation purposes of paddy fields are non existent, being encroached upon, and few that are existing have dried up. Wetlands which would exist few years back, on both sides of Rawalpora Flood Channel, in Rawalpora, Hyderpora and Peerbagh areas, have almost disappeared and encroached upon by the unscrupulous elements with the connivance of concerned revenue authorities.
These wet lands were home to many extinct variety of birds, and would serve as their sanctuary. Now what the Irrigation and Flood department has done is really surprising and could be a new engineering feat. They have converted the Rawalpora Flood Channel into a bird sanctuary and fish pond by allowing the weeds to grow even more than six feet high to host these birds. A stream which used to flow in the middle of channel for irrigation purposes has vanished.
The flood channel is covered with thick weed and has become most vulnerable. It has put the whole area in danger in case any flood occurs in near future. The capacity of absorption of flood waters has reduced to minimum.
The flood and irrigation department instead of resorting to de-weeding and drudging of the channel, is making all out efforts to fill it as early as possible to make it non functional and pave the way for encroachers. Their efforts are also facilitated by irresponsible inhabitants who leave no chance in throwing the waste and garbage of their houses into the channel; this due to callousness of the staff of SMC. Though the author of this write-up had tried to access the commissioner through mail, but to my dismay there was no response. God bless him.
So far as the PHE wing of engineering department is concerned they too have shown less commitment towards public health, by not providing clean and hygienic water supply to the people of Srinagar city. They have also failed to augment the water supply capacity to commensurate with increasing population of the city which has seen tremendous urbanization in recent years. They are providing new water connections out of the existing insufficient supply reservoirs which could not even cater the demand of old inhabitants.
The source of Kralapora water supply reservoir is the river Doodh Ganga which feeds about 6 lac people of up town Srinagar city. The water supplied from this reservoir is highly polluted and unhygienic. This is because the river has been polluted. And the biggest culprit is SMC which has been pumping liquid waste into it, which includes hazardous waste and human excreta, without any treatment. One can imagine what will be the state of health of the people who use water of this reservoir for drinking purposes.
I feel there should be no hesitation to put the concerned SMC and PHE officials in dock for this grave negligence. A social activist from Srinagar city Raja Muzaffar Bhat has been doing a commendable job in highlighting these issues. He has also sought the intervention of National Green Tribunal. His write-up titled “NGT intervenes to protect Doodh Ganga”, that appeared in Greater Kashmir dated 20-11-2021, is an eye opener.
One can not ignore the fact that political system which prevailed post 1990, is also responsible for this situation. It has been observed that the engineers in the democratic political system have always acted as per the dictums of their non technical ministers for various considerations at the cost of public health and exchequer.
GoI has always been magnanimous in providing sufficient funds for the implementation of various developmental schemes in all sectors but the culprits were our own ministers who for some considerations and few votes had put road blocks in the smooth implementation of schemes. For instance, the proposal for the widening of old airport route from Sanatnagar to Rangreth into four lane road was twice approved by GoI and necessary funds also stood allotted for implementation of the scheme, but the concerned state ministers did not utilize the funds and allowed them to lapse; this, to please few voters of this area. By doing this, the minister concerned has done a great disservice to the people of this area in general and to the commuters in particular.
The people of J&K have hardly experienced any transparent governance in last seven decades barring a brief stint in the 2nd innings of SMA’s rule between 1975-77, when the high ranking officers including few chief engineers were dismissed for their alleged involvement in corruption cases. And also during last months of 1996 and early months of 1997 when the then vigilance department became so vibrant that even the officers and professionals holding important positions, but allegedly involved in corruption cases, were not spared and strictly dealt with under law. The people in democratic set up have every right to question every government functionary for his misdoings. Since the accountability is the core of good governance, we hope that it will now prevail in all departments of government.
Abdul Rashid Khan, IGP(rtd)