River Jhelum was flowing at its lowest level in more than a decade for the better half of the current year. However, rains from the last four days brought about a spate in all water bodies. Most, if not all, crossed the flood-declaration mark or flood alarm level. This in a sense calls for the need to be prepared at all times to tackle the flood situation and minimize both loss to life as well as property.
The situation in Kashmir on the weather front is more often than unsteady. Until recently, Jammu and Kashmir was under a rain deficit. Climate changes are such that it may rain in abundance and bring about a spate in water bodies including Jhelum as was the case in the last few days.
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 a need to invest in reliable infrastructure to mitigate the impact of flooding and avert disasters like one in 2014 when almost half of Srinagar and many villages in south Kashmir were devastated.
The 2014 devastating floods were a natural phenomenon as well as human tragedy as administration apparently 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.
There are various causes of floods. They happen due to both greater than normal rainfall, and the limited capacity of rivers, drainage and water harvesting structures to withstand and discharge excess rain. While the climate crisis is causing substantial disruptions in rainfall patterns, scientists have been warning that floods will only become more frequent and powerful. To minimise loss, it is only proper planning that can insure against the inevitable extremities of nature including floods.
It is worthwhile to point out that the response of the successive governments to the imperative remained tardy and even indifferent in the past. The official machinery was hesitant to act against the encroachment of water bodies’ catchments, river courses and floodplains.
Unscrupulous people were allowed to build structures in close proximity to the rivers and lakes. The administration must draw up various plans clearly and in an era of the climate crisis, the same is a prerequisite, not a choice. The administration must be prepared for all eventualities and must react with promptitude.