Kashmir is Facing a Major Flood Threat

What happened to WB funds provided for flood mitigation post 2014 floods? Smart City project hasn’t even addressed drainage issues.

The entire April month this year has been terrible for Jammu & Kashmir. Out of 30 days, we have witnessed rains for 20 days in Kashmir valley. The upper reaches of Kashmir have witnessed a good amount of snowfall as well. The last few days have brought back the horrifying memories of the September 2014 floods. In several areas of J&K there have been massive landslides and land sinking incidents.

In Ramban district, around 60 houses were damaged due to land sinking in Parnote village which is around 6 kms from the town located on Ramban -Gool road. 500 victims of the land sinking incident were forced to leave their unsafe and damaged houses. Out of 60 houses, 50 % have been partially or fully damaged or developed cracks. A long stretch of Ramban Gool road has also been damaged and the land is still sinking

In North Kashmir’s Kupwara area, the rainfall has caused flooding in many areas around Handwara area. More than 330 families were relocated to safer places by district administration after flood water entered many residential areas.

The floods have damaged several bridges, roads and other infrastructure in the district which includes Shumriyal Bridge, Khumryal Bridge, Shatmuqam Bridge, Sohipora- Hayhama bridge, Farkyan bridge. Two Govt buildings were also damaged which includes the official complex of the Rural Development Department and office of the Assistant Director Handicrafts office building. Shumryal- Gundajhanger road got cut-off due to scouring and there has been a breach in Doban Kachama dam. The road from Madmadhav to Kupwara has also been damaged due to landslides and cracks.

Flooded Smart City

In Spite of getting a major facelift in the last 2 years under the Srinagar Smart City Project, almost 70% of the roads in Srinagar area choked with water. The Srinagar Smart City project has a budget allocation of Rs 1000 crores but when we see city roads flooded and choked it seems taxpayers money is being wasted.

The Srinagar city lacks proper drainage system which should have been a priority for the Govt under the Smart City Project. If the face of Kashmir Boulevard road is choked with rainwater what can we expect from areas that are not covered under the Smart City project? Even the areas that fall outside municipal limits are choked. This author personally witnessed and reported the flooding around Boulevard road especially near Nishat Bagh area which had got a major facelift under Smart City Project last summer but the unplanned works have not only narrowed the road space but there even the natural drainage of rainwater towards Dal Lake has been halted. When the road from Brein to Nishat was flooded excessively, I could see the labourers hired by Govt officials dismantling a newly constructed footpath/cycling track to make way for rainwater to enter the Dal Lake.

One fails to understand why the engineers or urban planners who were involved in facelifting around Boulevard road or Nishat Bagh didn’t put proper rainwater drainage systems in place. If sewerage and waste water can be pumped into Jhelum, Doodh Ganga or other water bodies by Govt engineers, why not allow rainwater move towards Dal Lake which isn’t hazardous at all.

I fail to understand what kinds of architects, consultants and engineers have been hired by Srinagar Smart City management?

It was not only me who felt agitated but I could see dozens of such videos and pictures posted of social media. The journalists, vloggers , pedestrians, and local residents used their smartphones to highlight waterlogging. The horrible part of this damage is caused to vehicles as deep potholes are not visible in rains and cars get dashed into these pits which makes the journey awful.

Water Logging in City outskirts

One can understand flooding happening in rains around Bemina, Hyderpora, Pir Bagh and other low lying areas in Srinagar city. But during the last many years I have witnessed that even the areas which are located in Srinagar outskirts towards Chadoora are also choked with rainwater as a proper drainage system isn’t in place. Alamdar Colony Gopalpora which is located on the tail end of Budgam and mere 4 kms from Ward 35 of Srinagar Municipal Corporation -SMC (Bagh e Mehtab) is frequently getting waterlogged. This area isn’t a low lying area but due to population growth and urbanisation water table has come up in this area.

This entire residential colony doesn’t have any proper drainage system in place inspite the fact that the area falls under the Srinagar Metropolitan Region project but the works under this project seem to be not being taken up. I have been told that there is huge funding for this project but this project has no staff and Divisional Commissioner Kashmir has been given the charge of CEO. Presently, one Executive Engineer is looking after this project but hardly any works have been executed. As Govt of J&K has already agreed to provide Rs 140 Crores for setting up scientific liquid waste management programme around Doodh Ganga on the orders of National Green Tribunal (NGT) from Barzulla to Chadoora , I would request the Chief Engineer UEED to connect Alamdar Colony Gopalpora with this project. In addition to Rs 140 Crores around Rs 35 crores realised as penalty from Govt will also have to be spent on Doodh Ganga wastewater treatment plants. Infact, the DPR for the project has already mentioned Gopalpora as well but I am again reminding authorities about this pressing issue as liquid waste management and rainwater management is a major challenge

World Bank Funding for Flood Mitigation

The 2014 floods caused massive destruction across Kashmir and some parts of Jammu division as well. The Govt of India with assistance from World Bank as well provided huge funding to J&K for flood mitigation. The works were to be taken up in a phased manner which continues even now. Soon after the September 8th 2014 floods, a three-members group headed by Chairman, Central Water Commission-CWC was constituted on the instruction of Prime Minister Modi.

The Ministry of Water Resources Govt of India on September 18th 2014 issued orders to conduct an in-depth study and analysis of the unprecedented floods in J&K. This study and detailed analysis was aimed at formulation of a detailed action plan to overcome the future flood threats in Kashmir valley especially Jhelum basin. The Chairperson Central Water Commission-CWS, Commissioner Indus and the Director National Institute of Hydrology Roorkee recommended immediate measures , short term measures and long term measures for flood mitigation in Jhelum and its tributaries.

The funds to the tune of Rs. 114 Crores have been sanctioned by Government of India in year 2022 as Ist instalment under flood management in border areas programme – FMBAP. The money has already been released to the J&K Finance Department.

The J&K Administrative Council chaired by LG Manoj Sinha on July 6th 2023 approved the project titled: “Comprehensive Flood Management of River Jhelum and its Tributaries-Phase-II (Part-A)” at an estimated cost of Rs 1623 crores and directed Jal Shakti Department to expedite preparation of tenders and spend an amount of Rs 114 crores which was already released by Govt of India.

The Lt Governor Manoj Sinha gave his approval as well for the construction of hydraulic gates (regulators) at the entry point of Hokersar wetland in Srinagar-Budgam area for which Rs 29 crores (aprox) were spent but rest of the works are not taken up and even the tenders are not issued?

For flood mitigation post 2014 flood the World Bank funds were provided for setting up dewatering pumps around Doodh Ganga stream in Srinagar but the works were taken up unscientifically and under the garb of draining out storm water, sewerage lines were connected with it especially around Chanapora, Natipora, Pamposh Colony, Barzulla, Bulbul Bagh and Tengpora.

The contractors hired by Srinagar Municipal Corporation -SMC did all this in violation of Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1974. The National Green Tribunal took a strong notice of it and SMC was penalised with Rs 1 crore by NGT 2 years back. Rs 2 crores penalty was imposed on the Geology and Mining Department and Director ULB Kashmir. Later on Rs 32 Crores penalty was imposed again on J&K Govt for these lapses by NGT.

Major Flood threat

Kashmir valley is facing a major flood threat and this summer will be very challenging for us. The main reason is that Jhelum flood basin is choked with massive construction. Huge earth filling has been done from Gallandar Pampore to Narbal via Chadoora Budgam for the Srinagar Ring Road project. This entire area used to absorb rainwaters but now waterlogging is quite evident in these areas.

The construction company isn’t following Environmental Management Plan -EMP and other guidelines to drain out rainwater. They have also devastated rivers and streams by extracting boulders and other riverbed material without any environmental clearance. Sukhnag nallah in Beerwah is looted on a daily basis as more than 100 dumpers take out boulders from it without any valid permission from J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority-JKSEIAA.

This will cause landslides and flooding in the villages around Beerwah. Many apple and plum orchards located near the proposed Ring Road project are flooded especially around Wathoora, Chattergam, Khanda, Gudsathoo, Lalgam and other areas. The agricultural land is choked with water as the natural flow of water has been hampered. Same thing has happened around Srinagar city especially on Boulevard road as the Smart City Project hasn’t taken care of draining out the rainwater. These lapses need to be taken seriously by the Govt and people who have committed these blunders should be punished, as huge funds provided by Govt of India are looted and spent without getting any desired results.