BILAL PANDOW writes about ‘Kashmir Flood on 30 March’ in Kashmir valley, another consecutive flood since September 2014, which devastated the valley. He discusses about policies, ecological imbalance and increasing encroachment in the natural waterways and insufficient preparedness measures in place.
As flood situation in Kashmir valley is looming, the water level in Jhelum river has crossed the flood alert level and most of the streams of the river in the valley are flowing with high and increasing discharges. Is the valley heading towards another devastating flood of September, 2014 which took a heavy toll as 300 people have died? Apart from human loss, the floods damage 2,61,361 houses, 75,000 business establishments, 3.27 lakh hectares of agricultural land and 3.96 lakh hectares of horticulture land also suffered. Besides, 6,910 kms of road length, 559 bridges, 3,063 PHE schemes, 6,423 irrigation works and schemes, 4,202 sub-stations, and 11,671 kms of electric conductors suffered damages.
Jhelum river on Monday [March 30th, 2015] crossed the danger level in Srinagar following heavy rains. At Ram Munshi Bagh the water level stands at 19.40 feet against the flood level of 18 feet, while at Sangam it is flowing at 22.30 feet against the danger mark of 21 feet and at Asham the water level has been recorded as 11.66 feet against the danger level of 14. Further avalanche warning was issued by Divisional Commissioner [Kashmir] on 29th March for next 24 hours in avalanches prone areas of Kulgam, Pulwana, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Gabderbal and Kargil districts.
While, the Meteorological Department predicts another western disturbance which is likely to hit the state on April 2 and advised to watch the mountain streams for any sudden rise that can cause local damage and trigger landslide.
So far, over 80 structures, including residential homes, school buildings and other structures, have suffered damage due to flash floods since Saturday in Srinagar. The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was closed following landslides at a number of places. The Srinagar-Gulmarg road was also closed after a bridge in Kunzar village was washed away by the swollen Ferozepur stream. There was water-logging in many commercial and residential areas and JVC hospital, a government hospital on the outskirts of Srinagar, was waterlogged. Patients were being evacuated from the hospital.
While, two houses at Chadoora area in Kashmir’s Budgam district have sunk into the ground. And so far 10 bodies are recovered and 21 are still missing. Besides, Baramulla-Uri road is blocked due to landslide at few places. Due to overflowing of nearby streams the colonies at Baramulla are flooded and 5 houses are reported to be damaged in Khatnai village. Fresh landslides reported in Udhampur, a massive rescue operation is underway. Jammu- Srinagar Highway is blocked at Udhampur due to number of landslides. Around 45 villagers are trapped in Poonch and the police and army personnel have been sent for rescue. An approach road to temporary Bailey bridge near SK Bridge installed on the river bed last year has been washed away. Power supply is affected in Loran, Uppar Buffliaz, Upper Hari Marhote, Bhatadhurian, Some parts of Ajote and some parts of Sawjian.
Is this natural or man-made disaster? And I am sure most will agree with that it is occurring due to selfish acts and policies of the denizens of this land coupled with the climate change again by the deeds of humans that harm the ecology at global level.
In past several decades, water bodies have been encroached for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum river have met the same fate decreasing the withholding and discharging capacity of the river. During the recent floods adjacent areas of bank of the Jhelum suffered the most. In future, it is going to continue till the natural flow of water is not given its proper way else when it will rain heavily, it will flood the valley.
According to Working Group I Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: An increase in extreme monsoon rainfall events has been observed. This might be due to increased moisture in the atmosphere and/or warmer sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean.
Monsoon rainfall (both mean rainfall and extreme rainfall events) is projected to increase further despite the monsoonal circulation potentially decreasing. More moisture in the atmosphere is expected to compensate for the weakening circulation.
According to a report by Asia Development Bank India may stand to lose 1.8 percent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050 due to climate change.
Back in the valley, unplanned developments in the valley coupled with climate change and poor preparedness is exacerbating the impacts. The fact that the valley is highly flood-prone based on recent floods in September, 2014 the state doesn’t have a single flood forecasting station, though India has 175 stations.
The Jammu and Kashmir government needs to act immediate without further wasting more time and take corrective action as the calamity is likely to strike again. The government should also do assessments of vulnerability and climate proofing of government schemes. Also, the state should put in place all the mitigation measures to deal with disasters.
About author: Bilal Pandow is Founder of Environment Watchdog, South Asian Voluntary Association of Environmentalists [SAVAE] based in Kashmir. He is trained Climate Reality Leader who heads Global Nature Fund’s Living Lake Network for Wular Lake (Kashmir). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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