The denial to release funds for the ambitious flood mitigation project for Jhelum river by the centre is a serious setback to the dream of making Srinagar city into a smart city. The city which always remains prone to floods has been craving for a flood management programme which has so far been ignored by all the governments.
In a recent impede the Department of Water Resources (DoWR), Union Jal Shakti Ministry has informed the JK administration that the central assistance could not be released for comprehensive flood management of River Jhelum and its tributaries- Phase-II due to dearth of funds.
The Centre had to release Rs 225 crore for the project however, the central government expressed its inability to release its share for the project costing Rs 1623.43 crore. The project has received both technical sanction and investment clearance from the Centre, even as only 1178 crore were kept for it in the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
So far JK has utilized Rs 39.14 crore against Rs 47.49 crore released by DoWR for the project. The project was proposed after floods wreaked havoc in Jammu & Kashmir in 2014. The devastating deluge devoured 300 lives and damaged property worth thousands of crores in the region
A committee set-up by the Government of India to go into the cause of catastrophic floods suggested several measures to prevent such calamities in future. The panel recommended several long term measures including additional supplementary flood spill channel, creation of storage facilities on tributaries of Jhelum, flood plain zoning and enhancing capacity of Wular Lake.
Notably, the ground situation tells us that the carrying capacity of all our water bodies has reduced to such an extent that they are not able to accommodate the discharge from various rivulets and streams. This also points out to the fact that the planners here are more interested in implementing political agendas rather than working on administrative requirements.
Kashmir has witnessed devastation on many fronts. But the way floods ravaged through our streets and towns in September 2014 made various international bodies to realize that Kashmir needs a flood management programme.
That being the reason that the World Bank approved a flood management programme only to be shelved by the administrative authorities that too without even bothering to provide a reason for the same.
The WB funded project stressed on creating an alternate flood channel to save the region from future devastation, but the work on that front too has been shelved. This gives us a clear indication that the priority of the government lies elsewhere.
And in such a scenario the central government’s refusal to release for flood management project points out to the fact that turning Srinagar city into a smart city is mere a slogan and nothing else.