Gadhia and Khan were lucky to have been saved, unlike the 215 people who lost their lives in the deluge. The toll is likely to rise as the water recedes. Hectares of ripe crop and orchards have been lost, and the infrastructural damage is likely to cross 6,000 crore.
` Kashmiris have complained about the lack of coordination among the Army, ndrf and the local administration in rescuing people. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah pleaded helplessness. “I had no government for the first 36 hours as the seat of establishment was wiped out.My own residence has no power supply, and my cellphones had no connectivity.My capital city [Srinagar] was taken out. I resumed administrative operations with six officers in a makeshift mini secretariat, ”he told journalists at a press meet on September 9. According to news reports, the six-storey secretariat was submerged up to the second floor.
Abdullah added that his officers could not be located for at least three days after the floods began. “People’s anger is justified, but we were caught off guard. ”His minister for irrigation and flood control, Shyam Lal Sharma, told Down To Earth that his department had given a warning which was not taken seriously. “We issued a warning on September 5.People were alerted in various parts of the state, ”Sharma said.
FLOODS NOT UNPRECEDENTED
Jammu and Kashmir has a long history of floods. From 1905 to 1959, the state was hit by flood 14 times.The memory of the 2010 floods in Leh was still fresh when disaster struck again last month.
In 2010, the Jammu and Kashmir Flood Control Ministry had prepared a report and issued a warning that the state is likely to face a major flood catastrophe in the next five years and that the government is ill-equipped to save lives and property. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department had proposed a 2,200 crore project to put the required
` infrastructure in place.The report was submitted to the Union Water Resources Ministry, but nothing happened. The Jhelum is one of the most important natural drainage channels of Srinagar, which is otherwise like a bowl having no outlet for water. Silt has accumulated in all of its major tributaries and the flood channels are blocked. The wetlands of Nadru, Nambal, Narkara Nambal and Hokarsar that absorb rainwater have been replaced by residential colonies (see ‘Srinagar’s lost saviours’ on p27). When it rains for two to three days, the city gets flooded with water from the Jhelum. “Srinagar faces flood every 50 years. It has a cycle. But encroachment has killed its flood channels. Bemina used to be a flood basin, but many residential and commercial buildings have come up in its place in the past 10 years, ”Sharma says.
In 2010, the Jammu and Kashmir Flood Control Ministry warned that the state is likely to face a major flood in the next five years. No action was taken by the government
URBAN FLOODS INCREASING
Srinagar was once famous for its traditional ponds and tanks, which have been erased to house commercial complexes and parks. This has become a widespread practice across India. Every year floods are reported from cities like Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Surat, Rohtak, Gorakhpur and Guwahati. Factors are many—inadequate drainage systems, constructions on flood plains and river beds and loss of natural water storage areas. It only shows how rapid urbanisation in and around a city makes floods inevitable. In the past decade alone, India witnessed numerous incidents of floods in Mumbai (nine times), Ahmedabad (seven times), Chennai (six times), Hyderabad (five times), Kolkata (five times), Bengaluru (four times) and Surat (thrice).
Abdullah defended himself by saying that state capitals had never been hit by a disaster in recent memory. But the devastating flood could have been averted had his administration and the Union government taken necessary steps to save the drainage channels of Srinagar when an alert was sounded in 2010.