Almost routinely, there are reports about flash floods causing devastation in this or that part of Jammu & Kashmir. Although there is variation in scale of devastation due to flash floods, the frequency has increased recently. Many lives have been lost while damage to property has been on large scale with vehicles and bikes washed away at many places and residential houses and household goods suffering deterioration due to entry of gushing waters.
The tragedies which unfold also frame different imperatives including reexamining the ways in which mountains and high-altitude regions are infringed upon or development activities carried out. In fact, these incidents are a call to the scientists and academicians to investigate the numerous nuances of regions glaciology and to policymakers to be abreast with such research while taking decisions that impact fragile ecosystems.
The assessment of flood prone areas of the country has been carried out by different expert committees in the past but there is urgent need for specific measures and appraisal concerning this region.
Pertinently the Rashtriya Barh Ayog in the year 1980 estimated the total area liable to floods in the country as 40 million hectare (mha). The extent of maximum area affected by floods in any year during 1953-2010 as per the Working Group Report (year 2011) on Flood Management and Region Specific Issues for XII Plan is 49.815 mha including 0.514mha in Jammu and Kashmir.
In the present scenario, flood management including erosion control measures need to be revised. Prominently, flood management and anti-erosion schemes are formulated and implemented by local Governments as per their priority. Various measures need to be revisited. While conventional flood control including reducing flood flows by diversions work at times, flash floods happen in a jiffy and as such measures against them need to be worked out on scientific basis for the areas prone to it.
There is also need to work as regards non-structural measures including facilitating timely evacuation of the people and shifting of their movable property to safer grounds by having advance warning of incoming flood through setting up a flood forecasting system. There is as such the need for putting in place an integrated flood management approach to provide a reasonable degree of protection against damages. There should be more investments in forecasting systems in order to provide more lead time to the local authorities to plan evacuation of people and take other remedial measures.