Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

Wrains be­gan in Jammu and Kashmir ( J&K) on the morn­ing of HEN THE Septem­ber 3,it was just another day for Vi­jay Gad­hia.The 50-year-old em­ployee of Jammu’s Power De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment had gone to Srinagar with his col­leagues for of­fi­cial work. He ex­pected the next day to be bright and sunny. A day of rain in the re­gion is usu­ally fol­lowed by a day of sun­shine. But the rain did not stop. In­stead, he heard the news that a bus car­ry­ing 70 mem­bers of a wed­ding party was washed away by flash floods in Ra­jouri, of which 50 could not be traced. On the night of Septem­ber 4, the Doodh Ganga, a trib­u­tary of the Jhelum flow­ing through Srinagar, breached its em­bank­ment fol­low­ing a cloud­burst in its catch­ment area. On Septem­ber 5, the wa­ter level in the Tawi and Chenab rivers in Jammu rose dra­mat­i­cally. Flood con­trol bunds were washed away, bridges col­lapsed and agri­cul­tural land got sub­merged. Rains con­tin­ued to lash the re­gion in the next few days trig­ger­ing land­slides that dis­rupted high­ways and snapped power lines. Till the af­ter­noon of Septem­ber 5, Srinagar res­i­dents were click­ing photographs of the grad­u­ally swelling Jhelum to post on so­cial me­dia.

On the night of Septem­ber 5,the Jhelum too breached its em­bank­ment at Pad­shahi Bagh, fol­low­ing which there was a half-hearted at­tempt by the state ad­min­is­tra­tion to warn the peo­ple. An­nounce­ments were made from sev­eral mosques in the city at 10 pm. Res­i­dents were asked to move to the first floor of their houses.But the an­nounce­ments came late. Most peo­ple had gone to bed. Many of those who were awake ig­nored the words. Ac­cord­ing to Gad­hia, it hardly sounded like a warn­ing. Those who did not have a multi-storey build­ing had no choice.By the time the an­nounce­ments started, some parts of Srinagar were al­ready sub­merged in waist-deep wa­ter.

Gad­hia and his col­leagues sensed trou­ble and fled Srinagar, spent four days in the wilder­ness with­out food and wa­ter be­fore reach­ing the Shankaracharya hill on Septem­ber 12.“After that we reached the Gov­er­nor House from where we were air­lifted to Jammu, ”Gad­hia told Down To Earth.

Rain­fall in Srinagar for Septem­ber crossed its 10-year-high mark of 151.9 mm in 1992 within 24 hours. This year, the city re­ceived 156.7 mm of rain­fall on Septem­ber 5 alone


In Septem­ber, rain­fall in Srinagar crossed its 10-year-high mark—151.9 mm of rain­fall in Septem­ber 1992—within 24 hours. This year, the city re­ceived 156.7 mm of rain­fall on Septem­ber 5 alone. The av­er­age monthly rain­fall for Srinagar is 56.4 mm. The In­dia Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment recorded more than 500 mm of rain­fall in the first week of Septem­ber. The flood­wa­ter started re­ced­ing from Septem­ber 11, but till Septem­ber 13 more than 70 per cent of Srinagar was still sub­merged, with tens of thou­sands of peo­ple stranded.

The two dis­tinct wa­ter chan­nels flow­ing through the city—the Jhelum and the flood chan­nel, an ar­ti­fi­cial out­let cre­ated in 1904 to drain out ex­cess wa­ter from the Jhelum in case of flood—had merged into a big, brown lake. Some of the worst-af­fected ar­eas in­clude Al­lochi Bagh, Tulsi Bagh, Wazir Bagh, Ra­jbagh, Zero Bridge and ar­eas along the right bank of the Jhelum. Maisuma, Nati­pora, Lal Chowk and sev­eral lo­cal­i­ties in Civil Lines re­mained sub­merged un­der two me­tres of wa­ter.

Mur­taza Khan, a for­mer leg­is­la­tor, spent three days on the roof of the mla hos­tel build­ing on M A Road. “The pace and level of res­cue op­er­a­tion was only five per cent of the re­quired scale.The Army or the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Re­sponse Force (ndrf ) hardly knew about Srinagar. They had no idea which area was densely pop­u­lated with kuc­cha houses and which had high-rises, nor did they know where the wa­ter cur­rents were max­i­mum and why, ”he says.

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