The ill-planning of the authorities in undertaking dredging of river Jhelum here has evoked resentment among people.
Belying tall claims of authorities of undertaking flood mitigation measures in the river, the machine meant for dredging Jhelum is being used for sand extraction.
The Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department has awarded Rs 46 crore dredging project to a Kolkata-based company. However, locals termed it as "wastage of public money."
The company had pressed its men and machinery for dredging a portion of Jhelum at Shivpora. "It is ironical that instead of dredging, the machine is being used to extract sand," said Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, a local.
Seconding him, Muhammad Ayoub Bhat, a local said that funds for increasing the river's carrying capacity have been wasted. "The much-hyped machine hired by authorities for dredging river Jhelum here has proved nothing more than the wastage of public money and time," he added.
The company, according to locals, has not carried any dredging. "The company is only undertaking sand extraction," they alleged.
They said the company left over nearly two kilometer stretch and shifted the machine to Zero Bridge.
"The company refused to undertake dredging on this part of river saying 'there was no space to keep sand and silt," said Abdur Rehman, a local at Sonwar.
Locals accused authorities of being in "collusion" with the company. "Today, the rate of one truck load of sand is Rs 5000. It is only because of the monopoly of this company. It has extracted sand from Jhelum worth of crores of rupees while local sand extractors have been banned," said Ghulam Muhammad of Sonwar.
He added that men in boats who used to extract sand manually from Jhelum were doing "better work' than the dredger.
The dredger brought by the company couldn't start work in time as it developed some technical snag on day one. It has remained dysfunctional time and again, wasting precious time.
Pertinently, Srinagar bore the brunt of floods in 2014 as habitations on both sides of Jhelum were submerged for several weeks. Due to the deluge, tons of silt from mountainous catchments settled in the river, drastically affecting its carrying capacity and hydrological system. As a result, the water level in Jhelum increases after few days of rainfall.
The slow pace of dredging and flood mitigation measures has raised question marks over the seriousness of the Government to prevent flooding of the summer capital. Presently, the water level in Jhelum is considerable low and even the flood spill channel is dry and experts maintain this is the best time for dredging.
Locals alleged that the issue of dredging has taken a back seat. "Officials of Irrigation and Flood Control have mislead the government on sand extraction. Around 80 private machines which were purchased by youth of Srinagar for sand extraction was one of the viable options as dredging would have been undertaken without any charges. However, due to some vested interests a few officials opined in their reports that these private machines would harm river embankments," they added.
"Some officials have looted the public exchequer in the name of dredging and on other hand the company having a field day in extracting sand and selling it, leaving silt behind," they said.
Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control, refused to talk over the issue saying, "I am busy."