Kashmir Floods: An an act omission and commission

Kashmir has been devastated by raging floods. While the human toll is yet to be ascertained, the over-all loss to property, infrastructure & business is estimated to be one lakh crores of Rupees. Our ruling class has lost no time in urging New-Delhi to declare the tragedy a national Calamity, but their tribe & administration cannot escape the blame of inviting this fury and in that respect it can legitimately be called a man-made calamity. Two MLA’s are fast emerging as facilitators, if not architects, of the whole tragedy. 
While limiting this write-up to the floods submerging Srinagar City, following acts of commission & omission have become as contributory causes for the devastation.

1) First of all commercial & residential constructions have been illegally allowed in flood basin reserved to act as catchment area for diversion of excess water to save Srinagar City .It is now a posh slum called Mehjoor Nagar with Water & Electricity connections provided liberally courtesy local politicians to strengthen their Vote-Bank. When Srinagar City faced imminent danger of Floods, the residents of this slum with active support of concerned MLA , resisted diversion of water to this area with the result that pressure on Bunds of Jehlum Surrounding City increased. Though it was finally diverted but the pressure had already done the damage. The same diversion at Kandi-Zal was resisted by MLA Chadoora, a day earlier, to save his vote bank area.

2) On the bund adjoining Gadhanji Pora, massive construction of Hotels & commercial establishments has been allowed illegally by the concerned departments with favourable recommendation from concerned MLA. They have resorted to huge excavation in the river bed ultimately weakening the protective system. A massive construction was allowed to construct a school by a politically well connected person with active connivance of Local MLA & LAWDA officials. For raising this construction, the concerned person did a lot of excavation thus weakening the natural strength of the bund. It needs to be mentioned that water entered Rajbagh-Jawahar Nagar initially through a breach near this point in the bund. 

3) With the highly improper plan of constructing Jehangir chowk-Rambagh Flyover,(which is a matter of separate debate) much of the traffic was diverted through a portion of the bund from Jawahar-Nagar to Ram bagh. This type of vehicular traffic is never suitable on Flood saving Bunds. It creates adverse movements beneath which weakens the bund. To add salt to injury, a low level bridge joining two sides of the bund was constructed across the flood channel which acted as an unregulated “Weir” creating huge pressure on one side of the bunds. Due to this excess pressure, the bund caved in at various weak points. 

4) All along the world, the flood saving bunds have to be in a reverse “V” shape (^) fortified by planting appropriate trees with botanically strong roots. The concerned Department has been quite negligent in enforcing this practice. The bund on the population side has been encroached, de-planted & excavated to construct garages, servant quarters & similar constructions. In a particular section of the bund huge water pipes have been laid down. This has considerably weakened the bund & the overall protection system.

5) A few days before the raging floods created havoc in Srinagar city, a small breach occurred in Dood-Ganga Channel bund near Bone & Joint Hospital again at a place where the Govt. was carrying some construction activity reportedly for creating some parking space. When the said channel was in spate, iron gates located at Bul-bul Bag bund had to be opened to divert excess flow in main flood channel. It is reported that these gates couldn’t be opened due to some mechanical failure with the result a breach occurred at a weak point and water inundated whole Barzulla Colony. It amply proves that administration had not done proper home-work & was caught off-guard.

6) A common sewerage treatment plant (STP) is being constructed on the water-bed near Hatrick restaurant, Rajbagh. At the time of floods, the work was in progress and excess water flowing in Jehlum entered through the pipes laid for the purpose. The water also found its way inwards through pipes laid to dewater the Rajbagj area through de-watering station. Non-returnable valves fitted in these pipes, which allow only outflow & prevent inflow of water, did not function properly as these were of highly inferior quality due to corruption element prevalent in the administration, particularly the engineering departments.

7) In-spite of severe criticism by civil Society, The construction of skewed bridge across Jehlum, near convent School was taken up by the Govt. which necessitated excavation of the bund on both sides . This also weakened the bund, the early signal of which was given by caving in of a huge tree nearby. 

For the State Govt., it is of paramount importance to appoint a high power judicial commission with members of impeccable character & record from various fraternities to precisely identify & pin-point the reasons for the disaster and initiate action against the negligent & delinquent.

(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: abdulmajidzargar@gmail.com)