2014 Floods: A grim reminder of nature’s agony and colossal losses

8 YEARS LATER, LITTLE PROGRESS IN FLOOD MITIGATION
A man crosses a flooded street in Srinagar during September 2014 floods. [Representational Image]
A man crosses a flooded street in Srinagar during September 2014 floods. [Representational Image] File/ Agency

Srinagar: In 2014, Kashmir experienced massive floods that stranded thousands of people inside their submerged homes and cost the economy more than Rs 100 crore.

Eight years later, there has been little progress in flood mitigation while experts believe much more needs to be done to prevent such deluges in the future.

It was after 100 years that Kashmir witnessed such a wretched urban flood that swamped the Valley's economic hub, causing massive losses to enterprises. It bought several failing enterprises and left its influence on history.

Muhammad Maqbool Dar, an electronic products trader whose showroom was inundated in water for over a week during the 2014 floods, is one such casualty.

“To date, I have yet to recover from losses sustained during a flood. The compensation from the government was insufficient,” he said.

The then J&K government said that the worst urban deluge in J&K cost the regional economy Rs 100 crore.

Aside from losses, the government's flood mitigation strategy, launched after the floods, has yet to be fully implemented. Although one phase has been completed, the second phase is yet to be implemented due to a lack of funds from the Centre.

A comprehensive project undertaken to enhance the carrying capacity of the River Jhelum is yet to be fully completed as the Jammu and Kashmir government is awaiting the release of funds from the Centre for the Jhelum Flood Management Plan - Phase 2.

An estimated amount of Rs 1623 crore has been earmarked for comprehensive flood management of River Jhelum and its tributaries - Phase-II under the Prime Minister's Development Package.

A senior official said that the J&K administration had given its investment clearance to the project and allocated its budget share, and now the only wait was for the union cabinet's nod and its funding.

As per the status report of the project accessed by Greater Kashmir, technical sanction for the plan was approved in December 2019 and investment clearance was accorded to the project at Rs 1623.43 crore on February 19, 2020, but conveyed on July 30, 2020.

“The budget proposal/UC for Rs 684.61 crore including Rs 227.44 crore J&K share has been submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DoWR, RD and GR) during 2021-22 for the release of funds,” reads an official document of the J&K government.

“The Department of WR, RD & GR may consider Phase-II (Part-A) as an ongoing project instead of new because it forms part of the overall project of the PM’s Development Package (PMDP) approved during 2015-16," the document reads.

“However, the DoWR, RD, and GR, Ministry of Jal Shakti informed that the scheme has been included under CSS-FMBAP 2021-26. Action for Cabinet Approval has been initiated by the DoWR, RD & GR. Approval is expected shortly," the official document said.

After the devastating floods of 2014, the Centre sanctioned ‘The Plan for Comprehensive Flood management of River Jhelum and its tributaries.

The project was funded under the Prime Minister’s Development Package.

The flood management plan for River Jhelum was divided into two phases.

As per the official document, Rs 399 crore was sanctioned for the first phase of which Rs 323 crore has been released.

“Phase-1 is substantially completed, discharge carrying capacity increased at Sangam from 31,800 cusecs to 41,000 cusecs. Two bridges are to be completed by October 2021,” the document states.

After substantially completing the first phase, the government of J&K has sought funds for the second phase.

The project was proposed after floods wreaked havoc in J&K in 2014.

The devastating deluge devoured 300 lives and damaged property worth thousands of crores of rupees in the state.

A committee set up by the Centre to go into the cause of catastrophic floods suggested several measures to prevent such calamities in the future.

In its report, the panel recommended several long-term measures including additional supplementary flood-spill channels, the creation of storage facilities on tributaries of River Jhelum, flood plain zoning, and enhancing the capacity of Wular Lake.

“Small storages on various tributaries of Jhelum for general purposes, power, and flood purposes as per provisions of Indus Water Treaty should be planned and created. This will help in moderating the floods and also enable in reducing the sediment load of the River Jhelum,” the panel recommended.

In 2020, the J&K administration accorded approval in principle to the Comprehensive Plan for Flood Management Works on Jhelum-II.

The project has been formulated to achieve the short-term goal of mitigating the flood threat at Sangam in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.

After the devastating floods of September 2014, and on the recommendations of a high-level committee constituted by the Centre, a multi-pronged strategy was adopted for flood mitigation in Kashmir.

Accordingly, to enhance the carrying capacity of the River Jhelum from the then 31000 cusecs to 60000 cusecs, the action was envisaged in two phases under PMDP.

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