Last week, the divisional Kashmir chaired a meeting calling for a fool-proof action plan in case a drought-like situation arises amid deficit rainfall in the valley for three months. The heavens opened up and the rain poured down to bring the Valley on brink of the floods in just a couple of days. In fact, the flood was declared in Ganderbal after river Sindh breached the danger mark near Duderhama. However, the rains relented and the water level dropped considerably in the Sindh as well as in Doodhganga which was also sent in almost full spate by the downpour.
In April this year, the divisional Commissioner Kashmir chaired a high-level meeting to be prepared for floods amid official reports suggesting an increase in snowfall by 25 percent last year which was thought to raise the water level in rivers and tributaries during the summer season. The rivers were flowing at very low levels until rains in the last two days. The prediction of a rise in Jhelum level following increased snowfall proved off the beam. However, the rains bringing such a spate in water bodies including Jhelum bring to question official claims of increasing the water capacity of the Jhelum over the years especially after 2014. The devastating floods were a nature phenomenon as well as human tragedy as government overlooked geological features and drainage patterns prior to it as well as post it by allowing illegal construction on river banks and over natural water channels.
In drafting the management plans, Jammu and Kashmir must be aware of the scientific consensus that future rain spells may be short, often unpredictable and very heavy, influenced by a changing climate. There is need to invest in reliable infrastructure to mitigate the impact of flooding and avert disasters like one in 2014 when almost half of the Srinagar and many villages in south Kashmir were devastated.
It is worth pointing out that the response of the governments to the imperative has been tardy and even indifferent. The official machinery is hesitant to act against the encroachment of water bodies’ catchments, river courses and floodplains.
Unscrupulous people are allowed to build structures in close proximity to the rivers and lakes. Granting permissions or closing eye to such constructions is an abdication of responsibility and a violation of Disaster Management Authority Guidelines to prevent flooding. The administration must draw up various plans clearly and in an era of the climate crisis, the same is a prerequisite, not a choice.