Srinagar awaits catastrophe ‘Massive Flood Can Hit City In 5 Years’


Jammu, Feb 11: Srinagar city, awaits a major deluge. Going by the warnings issued by the state’s flood control department, the historic city is likely to submerge in water, due to a major flood in next five years.

Highly places sources in the state government revealed that the Jammu and Kashmir Flood Control Ministry has issued a warning that the summer capital of the state is likely to face a major flood catastrophe in next five years and the department has nothing in place to save the human lives and property. “We are expecting a water discharge of around 150000 cusses if flood hits Srinagar city, leaving most parts of the city submerged”, a senor official of the flood control department told Greater Kashmir.

As per the flood control department assessment, most parts of the valley from Khannabal (Islamabad) upto Khadinyar (Varmul) are likely to be hit by the looming flood. “The Srinagar-Jammu highway may be washed away, leaving the Valley cut-off from the rest of the country”, the assessment says adding, “The Indira Gandhi Road leading to Airport will also be submerged, cutting the aerial access to the Valley as well”.

Sources said the flood control department has formulated Rs 2200 crore project to put the required infrastructure in place in anticipation of the devastating flood. The project report, they said, prepared by the department and weighs around one tone.

“One truckload with the report and its copies was sent to the union water resources ministry with the request to release the required funds so that the city can be saved from the imminent catastrophe”.

Sources revealed that out of the required Rs 2200 crore, the state has sought Rs 500 crore on immediate basis so that at least basic infrastructure could be created. “Out of Rs 500 crore the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has assured that the first instalment of Rs 109 crore will be released by March this year thus helping the state to take up the project at the earliest”.

When contacted, minister for flood control and irrigation Taj Mohi-ud-Din told Greater Kashmir that he has personally taken up the matter with the government of India in view of the fact that the threat is too imminent to be ignored. “I am conscious and concerned about the threat but have no resources to correct the wrongs done in the past”, he said.

Admitting that the major flood may hit the city any time in next five years, the minister said that the state government was expecting instantaneous help from the union ministry. “I have made it clear that the department needs finances and at least four years to put up the required infrastructure in place so as to meet the eventuality”, he added.

Srinagar city is known for major floods and many human lives were lost in the past, the minister said adding, one of the major floods in the history of the state, hit the Valley in 1902. “This flood is still known in Kashmir as Flood of 60’s (San Shathukh Flood) as it corresponds with the year 1960 Bikrami”, he said adding that during that devastating flood, the major portions of the Srinagar city remained submerged in the water for two years followed by water born diseases and epidemic. “We have some pictures available in our department showing one floor of famous British hotel of Srinagar submerged in water which clearly depicts the situation at that time”, the minister said.

The then ruler had no option but to seek help from the then British government, which dispatched a team of engineers to Srinagar so as to save the state from further losses. The British team, he said, started dredgingof river Jhelum from the mouth of Wullar, Asia’s largest freshwater lake, upto Khadanyar with the help of dredgers being run by steam engines.

“A 42 kilometre long flood channel was also constructed from Padshahi Bagh (Srinagar) to Wullar and several wetlands were covered in it”, he said adding, this was done specifically to channelise the floodwater.

The then state government, headed by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, in 1948 was conscious about the problem and it requested the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru for a dredger. “A dredger was imported by the government of India and handed over to the state in 1950”, the minister said adding, “The importance of the machine for the then state government could be gauged from the fact that it was commissioned by Nehru himself in Srinagar”.

As expected the city again faced a major flood in 1959. Some areas of the city, including Rajbah, were submerged, but no loss of life or property was reported due to the fact that the state was ready for the calamity and was regularly desilting the flood channels and outflow channels.

“The state was able to meet the situation only when it had the infrastructure available with it”, the minister said adding, “Since then the situation has changed and the scenario in most parts of the city infer that we have forgotten this major aspect of the history, which can be repeated at any time”.

Alleging that he has inherited only accumulative and criminal negligence from his predecessors, the minister said that he was helpless at this point of time when the cycle of fifty to fifty-five years is nearing to complete and the basic infrastructure to tackle any eventuality.

“It is not me but the history which clearly gives indication that Srinagar city faces flood every fifty years and the cycle is nearing completion”, he said. The water has no place to outgo in Srinagar city, he said adding Bemina was flood basin where large number of residential and commercial buildings have come up in last ten years.

Jhelum, which is made up of various small and large tributaries, is the only drainage of Srinagar city, which is otherwise a bowl having no outtake of water. In 1976 government constituted a committee headed by a famous hydrologist, Uppal. The Uppal committee recommended various measures for flood control but unfortunately the successive governments acted contrary to the recommendations. Silt has accumulated in all the major tributaries including Doodh Ganga and the flood channels are blocked, the minister said adding, that even the Srinagar Development Authority has constructed a shopping complex on the flood channel.

The renowned wetlands of Nadru Nambal, Narkara Nambal and Hokarsar are a history, as residential colonies have come up all along these wetlands, the minister said adding, the flood channels and the outflow channels are no more functional. “The flood water will flow in the city’s lanes and drains leaving it completely submerged”, he said.

However, the minister was hopeful that the help will come from the centre thus enabling the state to take up the precautionary measures well in advance