The other day late in the night there was movement of road clearing machinery in Jawahar Nagar. On being asked what was happening an official stated that the roads were being cleared of left over debris etc. as these had to be macadamised immediately as part of the Srinagar “Smart City” programmes. It is good to convert the capital of Kashmir into a smart city being a historical city more than 2000 years old. All will welcome it notwithstanding the fact that as present the city is smarting under umpteen civic problems. The local inhabitants would be really thankful if the problems ailing the city are dealt with on priority basis! These are are virtually innumerable starting from pot holed roads, choked drains, unmanageable traffic, erratic power been supplied through an antique distribution system and over and above everything, the residents being hounded by packs of ferocious stray dogs!
Well, one would forget everything and live in the worst discomfort of all these ills but there is a nightmare of the possible recurrence of the 2014 flood which seems to have been forgotten by one and all. That flood had inundated and virtually destroyed the poshest areas of the “Smart City”! It was expected that both the common citizens as well as the rulers would give first priority to prevention of future floods. Unfortunately, nothing substantial has been done in that regard except surveys and preparation of project reports. The most important item relating to dredging the River and the flood channel has been totally neglected. The same is the case with strengthening of the River embankments. The recently posted Chief Engineer of the Flood Control Department had publicly stated that not much dredging has been done and the process is proceeding at a snail’s pace. Over and above everything, even the head of the state administration has expressed “displeasure” over the delay in the expansion of flood spill over channel. “Displeasure” does not solve the problem. Rather disciplinary action is required as this neglect amounts to a criminal offence! During the short Governor’s rule an outside company had been allotted the contract for dredging the River but their machines broke down and according to some engineers, the machines were not meant for the type of dredging needed in the Rivers and the flood channel of Kashmir.
The most unfortunate and dangerous move made for the vote bank politics is construction of a spate of bridges on the flood channel. There are three bridges over the channel near Mehjoor Nagar and the channel itself is full of silt and mud which has not been touched for these two years. In the last flood itself one of the bridges had acted as a dam and the waters of a sudden back flow had entered all the adjacent colonies! Constructing so many low bridges on a channel meant to take the excess water in a flood should be a criminal offence. Just 10 feet of water will spill over the banks! It is Kashmir’s misfortune that the rulers meant to be taking care of these measures in the ideal low water season are enjoying their stay in the warm and salubrious climate of Jammu. Unfortunately, the people also seem to be least bothered about this future calamity which may strike again in view of the heavy snowfall on the mountains and the erratic weather due to global climate change. A few days continuous heavy rain with the melting of snow on the mountains will give a repeat of the nightmarish flood.
The dredging of the River and the flood channel is not some sophisticated mechanical operation. In fact, with the huge local labour force presently available, the dredging could be manually taken up provided the people in authority have the will and inclination to do so. When Hakim Suyya could do it centuries back, why not now? It seems that the persons in charge of flood protection measures and their political bosses have not gone through the nightmare of the last flood. Had they faced it, their top most priority would have been to ensure flood prevention of not only the capital Srinagar but the entire valley. Authorities may blame the last year’s unrest for disruption of all developmental works including flood prevention measures.
Well, one cannot deny that. It would be in the overall interest of all Kashmiris if all sides could exempt such urgent measures from shutdowns and other related counter activities. Moreover, now that the situation is somewhat stable, the effort needs to be accelerated to complete the assignment before the onset of the rainy season if the rulers have the will and inclination to do so. One wonders why the authorities cannot engage hundreds of thousands of idle youth in spite of repeated declarations about unemployment and sleep over measures meant to secure the physical future of the same people.The “Smart City” can wait but not the flood. It will once again devour whole Kashmir with all its inhabitants unless immediate measures are taken on war footing for its prevention. In the alternative our future generations may have to write another story about Kashyap Reshi draining the Sati Sar after killing the demon Jalodhbhava!