2014 Floods: Lessons and inaction

Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 12 2017 10:56PM | Updated Date: Sep 12 2017 10:56PM

This month Kashmir is marking the 3rd anniversary of the devastating flood that hit the state on 7 September, 2014. As people look behind, there are traumatising memories and lessons as well. While it is undeniable that an unprecedented civilian-led evacuation and relief operation helped save lives and provide for basic needs of the affected population, the staggering economic loss continues to impact economic activity even today.  What we need to be constantly reminded about is the ever-present risk of another flood which could strike Kashmir valley any time of the year, particularly in the autumn season. Unfortunately, little has happened at the governmental level since 2014 to suggest a reduction in flood risks. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court in June, responding to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), had asked the Irrigation and Flood Control Department about the measures it had taken to prevent 2014-like floods this year. The government then had sought two-weeks time to establish an Authority under Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources (Regulation and Management) Act.  The government has reported that it has been working on the recommendations of the committee constituted post 2014-floods by Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR), River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. And that it had made certain progress on the  recommended measures in three categories: immediate measures, short-term measures, and long-term measures. While some progress has been made in immediate measures for closing  breaches along the course of river Jhelum, it is highly suspect whether flood forecasting and warning networks are really operational today. There has been little or no progress in the short-terms measures of raising and strengthening of existing river embankments, enhancement of carrying capacity of existing flood spill channel, dredging of the spill channel to increase its carrying capacity, setting up of rapid action dewatering facilities in urban areas, and establishment of adequate emergency response measures. Same is the case with the long-term measures, which included creation of a  supplementary flood spill channel, enhancement of capacity of Wullar Lake and afforestation and catchment area treatment along hill slopes. This is a very precarious situation and the government needs to treat this matter with high priority, as against the business-as-usual. Kashmir cannot afford another devastating flood. The issue has to be taken with all the seriousness and administrative effectiveness as it so demands. 

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