The looming threat
This summer was yet again a grim reminder for all of us here in Kashmir valley about the looming threat of floods and the failure of the administration to take up effective and remedial measures post the September 2014 deluge.
This summer the downpour was below normal however, the below normal downpour also sounded us an alarm as the water level in river Jhelum rose tremendously and continues to be high despite an improvement in weather conditions.
The higher level of water in the Jhelum has alarmed the administration as well as during the last week the Divisional Administration sounded an alarm for all the district officers and asked them to be ready with all contingency plans and proposals to deal with any kind of a situation.
The Divisional authority directed all Deputy Commissioners of the valley to establish 24×7 flood control room immediately in their respective districts for an effective flood mitigation plan. The DDCs were told to deploy officers of Irrigation and Flood Control, Disaster Management, PHE, PDD, Revenue, Health, Food and Police to provide real time information to the District Administration and people.
The DDCs were asked to collect an information of resources, including men, low lying areas, Satellite Phones, availability of Geo quality of sand bags, JCBs, Ambulances, tents, De-watering pumps, evacuation plan, storage of essential commodities, list of Nodal Officers, water tankers, water supply schemes, NGOs working for disaster management, database of volunteers machinery and boats available from every department in their respective districts with location of control room and number of village level committees in their respective 24×7 flood control rooms and send the complete information to Divisional Commissioner office within three days for necessary action.
The reminder to the ground level officials about the dangers of floods and their preparation plans however, seems cosmetic as the magnitude of the September 2014 floods has made us realize that these measures fall short of the actual requirements.
The actual requirements that always escape the eye of the officials is the details about the plans that have been drafted to provide a diversion to the water in case the level rises to alarming levels in Jhelum during the summer months or whenever there is a heavy downpour.
This is where the officials fail and fail miserably. The diversion to the rising water levels has to be planned and for this the existing water bodies can prove to be the immediate remedy that is available. But the officials of various departments who exercise control over these water bodies do things according to their likes and understanding.
For example, the LAWDA which manages Dal lake has kept the water levels in the Dal alarmingly high. The water from this water body has been stopped and gates connecting the Dal with Jhelum have been closed for weeks now as no water is being allowed to escape the Dal territory and drain into the river Jhelum.
This is being done to show to the higher ups that the deweeding and extraction of other harmful vegetation that has rose in the Dal to an alarming level is under control. But in reality the weeds in the Dal have submerged under high water level which is giving a temporary relief to the officials to claim.
In reality we are sitting on yet another volcanic situation and if a situation like the one that surfaced in September 2014 remerges, then we are headed for another catastrophe.