`We did not act smartly'
Altaf Bukhari, flood and irrigation minister of Jammu and Kashmir spoke to Down To Earth about the aftermath of the floods and the steps the government has taken since. Excerpts from the interview What, in your view, caused such a devastating flood in the first place? The main reasons are encroachment on river banks and lack of desilting of rivers. We did not act smartly. We constructed colonies and other structures on the banks of the Jhelum. No work was done on flood channels. If we do not create flood channels, where will excess rainwater go? Has a proper study been done to understand the exact reasons behind the September 2014 floods? No study has been done at the official level. But many people have been trying to understand the reasons. A few documentaries have been made on the subject and we think these are close to the reality. It is clear that this is all because of mismanagement. And we can take preventive measures. Now, we are forcing people to leave encroached areas. Has any deadline been set? Whatever challenges come our way, we will remove all encroachments within 180 days. Very soon, we will start dredging of rivers and existing flood channels. We know that constructing new flood channels will take at least three years after approval but we need immediate solutions as precautionary measures. The whole administration has been on its toes for the past eight months, moving to this or that area to support people affected by the floods.