Government of India has cleared Rs 399-crore Jhelum flood management program for Kashmir that is aimed at increasing carrying capacity of the river and its flood spill channel.
Under the project, named 'the comprehensive plan for flood management works on river Jhelum-Phase I', the state government has proposed to undertake dredging of Jhelum, make the existing flood spill channel fully functional and increase its carrying capacity.
"The Centre has cleared the project as part of Rs 80000 crore development package for Jammu and Kashmir. There are various components to this flood project and it is aimed at mitigating Kashmir's vulnerability to the floods," Minister for Flood Control Sukhnandan Kumar told Greater Kashmir on Sunday.
He said his department would work out the 'finer details' of the projects before the works are formally taken up.
"The funds we had been seeking for long for Jhelum flood project have been made available under the (development) package," the Minister said.
Under the program the government would acquire land at Shariefabad on Srinagar outskirts to make the existing flood spill channel fully functional.
"The land acquirement is pending since 70's and it has been a major hurdle to the flood management program in the Valley," said an official of the Department.
The flood channel, which originates at Padshahi Bagh in Srinagar and empties into Wullar, had been designed to save Srinagar from floods. However inadequate land has choked the channel in Shariefabad which often results in spill over of water to nearby areas of HMT and Bemina and gives a reverse push to water.
The Rs 399 crore project, which was carved out of the mega flood management project, would also involve increasing the capacity of the flood channel from the present 8000 cusecs to 25000 cusecs, said the official.
Dredging of Jhelum to increase its capacity and strengthening of the embankments of the river body are other key components of the project.
"Both the components are very important and will to some extent address flood concerns in Kashmir," the official said.
While clearance to the project has provided breather to the government that has been accused of neglecting flood management in Kashmir, there has been however no progress on the Rs 18000 crore mega flood project proposal which includes construction of 80-kilometere spill channel from Sang am in south Kashmir to Wullar.
The State Government had submitted the proposal for the project to New Delhi in 2009 but in absence of any follow up action no progress has been witnessed on it.
After the last year's devastating flood that killed over 300 people and led to massive damage to housing sector and infrastructure in the Valley, New Delhi had asked the State to resubmit a fresh proposal, taking into consideration its environmental and geological impact.
Despite passing of more than a year the State government is yet to re-send the proposal.
Kashmir was hit by devastating flood in first week of September-2014 after week long rainfall which caused Jhelum to swell and breach its embankments. The summer capital of Srinagar and many parts of Kashmir, both in south and north, remained under flood water for more than a week.
Against the capacity of less than 30000 cusecs, Jhelum, which originates in south Kashmir and travels through Srinagar before reaching Wullar Lake, recorded flow of over 1.20 lakh cusecs, resulting in the massive flood.
The official said frequent and erratic rainfall, and climatic changes were a reality in Kashmir today.
"This has increased flood risks and in this situation only the mega flood program can help addressing long term concerns," said the official.
A study by J&K's Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, in collaboration with the National Remote Sensing Center, has cautioned that parts of Kashmir would witness increase in the intensity of rainy days by 20 percent by 2030 and it could result in frequent flood like situations.