For decades together we dumped all kinds of filth—verbal and literal—on the glittering face of river Jhelum, hailed as 'life-line' of Kashmir. It screamed in agony and pain, spilling some streams of tears here and there. Unmoved, we rolled our sleeves up to next bout of aggression. We rammed through its weak defenses (embankments) and, like an imperialistic power, went to build an empire of our insatiable greed right at its bosom. Stuffed to suffocation, it struggled for a breather. The September 2014 deluge was a growling protest to warn us that the threshold of its tolerance has reached to the tipping point. Better pledge allegiance to the bond that scripts survival of the both. Alas, the benevolent 'ear-pulling' did not make us wiser.
As the mighty river– that has nestled and enriched thousands of years of our civilization and existence on its vast wings (banks)– roared in fury in 2014, our only prayer was for some respite from its ferocious rage. The dry lips would lock to the heavens strutting, this time we are left pardoned. Instantly an eco-friendly conscious nation we would get transformed into, promising to sweep away all the choking impediments that forced Jhelum to burst in anger. A reprieve to survive the fury we were beseechingly weeping for. A year or two we longed for to make amends for the havoc we wreaked on our benevolent. We were leased three and a half-year bonus. Enough to rediscover ourselves and stop from vandalizing the nature.
Alas, that kind of magnanimity we answered in all measures of ungratefulness and ugliness. Three and half years gone, we are where we kneeled down for forgiveness. In fact, we have intensified non-compromising campaign of our collective annihilation. It is just eye-cheek distance before we are gulped down in the vengeful waters of the Jhelum. Again our Veth is yelling at our doors to remind us of the broken pledge. Again in hand-folded demeanor we are seeking its mercy. But to what extent and how long? We cannot keep committing aggression on the autonomous character of the Jhelum and run away from the all-infuriating backlash. If we don't wake up when we are certain that an odd precipitation might tear the plug off its patience, count we are doomed. The long pause to reflect on our behavior and goad us to take necessary remedial measures should have, by now, made us quite friendly with the majestic river Jhelum. That grace period we spoiled in pursuit of our wild materialistic ambitions and this should make us realize that we stand emptied of all appeals to review.
In September 2014, it was belligerence of heavy rains for a spell of seven days that inundated Kashmir, especially south Kashmir and historic city Srinagar. We knew the shameful and apathetic manner government responded to the situation. Abdicated of its responsibility and jammed in inertia the NC-Congress dispensation left people drown in waters. It was through community efforts, in particular our youth's dedication, that we navigated through the crisis that ruined entire communities, livelihoods and businesses. Last week horrifying memories of the devastating flood returned, laying flat all the tall claims the recently power-lost government made in respect of measures it took in preventing repetition of September 14 . While previous regime was caught unawares, Mehbooba-led coalition had the pleasure of wind-sight to look to the signposts to brace up for all future challenges.
The hydraulic and environment experts suggested just two primary tasks for the government to undertake. One, building of safe river embankments along river Jhelum and two, increasing the velocity of the out-flowing water for its quick discharge. That the river embankments are not safe and vulnerable to breach even after four years is despicable offence of criminal negligence. A two or three days downpour—not one tenth of the rains in September 14 flood–and we are back to 'digging well at the time of fire'. The present administration geared up to plug breaches with sand bags as was seen in 2014 deluge. Has administration in support of the local people not put sandbags at embankments with weak bases, places like Pampore , Athwajan and Panthchok would have been hit with the flood. Why it is that just a two days rain and Jhelum crosses flood danger mark. It makes government claim hollow that dredging of river bed was carried to augment its water carrying capacity, though rupees 46 crores were spent on this project. The Calcutta-based Dredging firm government hired failed to meet the deadline and also lacked the efficiency the gigantic task demanded. But who cared. Mehbooba Mufti's PD P had only one pre-occupation, appeasement of saffron brigade. The experts have pointed to the closure of de-siltation unit at Sopore some 26 years before that caused decrease in the flow of the water due to accumulation of the silt in the river bed. In the last four years additional hillocks of silt have put a stranglehold on the gills of majestic river. That has decreased water-absorbing capacity of the river impacting adversely its quick discharge.
Add to it the diversion of Kishen Ganga river into River Madhu Mati that ultimately drains into Wular lake. Already the water retaining capacity of the world-famous lake has, like Jhelum, been badly affected, the diversion into the lake is disaster in waiting. Not only it will further impede the flowing speed of water in Jhelum, there is every likelihood of Wular rushing out off its bounds to inundate the low-lying areas of Zainagir and Sopore (This column has voiced concern at the time the Kishen Ganga water project was floated). Layer after layer silt has deposited on the riverbed but for want of any survey no records are there to measure the amount and level of the silt deposited. We need a scientific approach while framing a flood control strategy. With flood plains already giving in to the reckless urbanizing drive and rudely impeding any retrieval for absorbing flood waters, we have but to gather momentum to restore Jhelum its virginity, grandeur and territorial sovereignty, right from Khannabal to Khadanyar. That calls for removing all encroachments along its embankments and inside and on the banks of Dal lake and Wular. Nothing less a sacred cause, the holy jihad. That demands an independent statutory body with judicial oversight, so as to save it from being ravaged at the hands of lusty looters in politics.
Negligence, lackadaisical approach, insensitivity and villainy of the various governments notwithstanding, we too have unleashed ourselves to accelerate the pace of collective destruction. Any slackness in government's resolve is a boon we keep stalking for. We have polluted and plundered all our resources of sustenance. There is not a single patch left unmolested. The concrete jungles sprouting out from the entrails of our water bodies is a testimony to the stones we have morphed ourselves into. Nocturnal owls are engaged in tying their nuptial ties. There is celebration all over.