In the year 2014, the Kashmir Valley witnessed unprecedented flood of the century which inundated about 557 Km2 area, besides, reportedly caused 200 causalities. Since then even a little downpour in summer has become source of anxiety and hysteria among the public.
However, it is strange that most of the people, even after 5-years, are holding the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Kashmir, entirely responsible for the devastation directly as well as indirectly caused by the floods, without historical research and comprehensive investigation on the subject of floods and water bodies of Kashmir. It is worthwhile to mention here, that studies have revealed that the human intervention and construction on wetlands has pronounced the effects on the frequency of floods occurring almost at regular intervals since 2014.
Therefore, it seems unconvincing and untenable to blame Irrigation and Flood Control Department entirely for the same. The excerptions of the following studies infer how human intervention viz-a-viz shrinkage in area of water bodies, loss of forest cover, illegal grabbing of natural water ways, khuls and pollution, can be seen as key factors responsible for floods and deterioration of the heath of the water bodies as under:
“the loss of nearly 50 % of wet lands over the period of 100 years. In 1911, the total extent of water bodies with marshy areas was 356.85 km2 , however, it has reduced to 158.54 km2 in 2011. Moreover, it was revealed that the Srinagar City was facing problem of drainage as these lakes used to act as sponges for floods. With most of them vanishing, the city is facing problems of floods from rainfall for three or four days because of excessive water flow in river Jhelum”.
The same observation has been upheld in the paper presented on the World Water Day, 22nd March 2017, at the Institution of Engineers, J&K State Centre Srinagar by one of the speakers as under:
“Half of the water bodies in and around Srinagar have disappeared over the last century under the pressure of rapid and badly managed urbanization”.
“The Kashmir Valley had recorded a huge loss of forest since 1992. Comparison of forest survey reports for the period show that the valley lost about 10 % of its dense forest cover during the period indicating that ability of forest to retain water has been reduced. It meant more rain water flowed directly into the river Jhelum causing floods”.
It is a known fact that trees anchor the soil with their roots. The loss of forest cover in upstream sub-basins of River Jhelum has caused sizeable erosion, as in absence of forest cover the soil easily flows into the river basin thereby giving rise to siltation in the river bed. This has reduced the discharge carrying capacity of River Jhelum and compels the river to swell just after two days of uninterrupted rainfall.
In addition to this, the other negative impact observed on account of deforestation has been the reduction of time of concentration which results in more flow of water in river basin in a shorter span of time. In view of the foregoing illegal activities, one fails to understand on what basis Irrigation and Flood Control Department can be held responsible for the one of the major causes of floods, origin of which was beyond the control of the Department.
This is purely moral and ethical imperative, not coming within the purview of any concerned department. The laws and regulations regarding deforestation must be strictly implemented and even strengthened to prevent the habitual offenders from continuing this practice. However, unless the sense of preservation of forest cover is not developed among the citizens of the valley, no matter how hard I&FC Department will try to execute the projects on ground regarding mitigation of floods, the desired results cannot be achieved.
Here again “Human Intervention” has been described as the cause of deterioration of water bodies in terms of encroachments and quality. Despite our negligence and insensitiveness, it has been learnt, that the concerned Departments have taken the task to increase drainability of many water bodies which has given sense of hope and security, in order to proceed in the positive direction.
“Man’s quest for rapid material development, even at the cost of destruction of the fragile, but very vital Eco-system is the cause of our present day environmental problem. This ecological misbehavior of man, though leading to some progress in the living standards over long terms. Human settlements within and on the periphery of Dal Lake are one of the main contributing factors for the environmental deterioration of the lake.”
In the light of the excerptions of the above studies, it becomes explicitly clear that human greed of turning wet lands into construction zones and the irresponsible behavior of some citizens towards water bodies by way of discharging sewage and solid wastes can be considered as the leading factors responsible for the shrinkage in the area and deterioration of these water bodies respectively.
Hence, without learned discussion and adequate research, the flood of hatred has been diverted to Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Kashmir. Moreover, it has also been observed that the soul in this imaginary effigy was breathed by the same people who themselves are responsible for the encroachments of the water bodies.
Lets us now look at the brief achievements of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Kashmir with regard to Flood mitigation, on the basis of the Power Point Presentation made before the Hon’ble High Court in the case of Peer Noor-ul- Haq Vs Chief Engineer and others. The lesser known facts which were placed on record before the Hon’ble High Court are:
It is in place to mention here, that the Department does not have a magical wand which is going to resolve the problem of floods in a jiffy. The Department is in process of implementing long term solutions enabling the positive outcomes to surface out, however, the same is time consuming, thus cooperation and patience from the public is needed.
Author is a Civil Engineer