Last week it rained only for two days and we saw Jhelum almost flooded. Our streams and tributaries of Jhelum river were also flowing above the danger mark. Had the rainfall continued for another one or two days , Srinagar would have been inundated along with other places. In fact our residential colonies set up around low lying areas like Bemina, and Mahjoor Nagar were already waterlogged. Earlier the water logging in Srinagar was seen after there would be constant rainfall for 3 to 4 days but now we see Srinagar’s many areas getting choked with water within 3 to 4 hours of rainfall. Similarly areas around Srinagar city would get flooded only after a 5 to 6 days of contact rainfall, but it is clear that all these things have changed. The reason is obvious, people continue to make constructions in low lying areas, wetlands and this is enhancing the possibilities of floods in Srinagar. The constant earth filling of Jhelum basin from Galander Pampore to Khanda Chadoora for the Srinagar Semi Ring Road project will add misery to people in floods in future. The reason is that the entire stretch on western side of Galander-Pampore – Lasjan highway has huge possibilities of getting flooded because the open spaces are getting choked due to urbanisation. We see Lal Chowk, Jahangir Chowk, Batamaloo, Bemina and other places in Srinagar city getting flooded after a few hours of rainfall. The water level in Jhelum is up when it rains for mere one or two days. Has our Government thought why are we witnessing such changes? Is our Government prepared to counter a possible flood threat? Last week’s rainfall for mere 2 days brought back terriblememories of the September 2014 floods as the water level went up in Jhelum and other rivers and streams.Flood Recovery Project
Aftermath of the devastating floods of September 2014 wherein Srinagar city remained flooded for almost a month, the Government of India requested assistance from the World Bank. An emergency project named as Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project was started in J&K which primarily focuses on restoring critical infrastructure using international best practice on resilient infrastructure. As J&K is prone to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes the infrastructure under this project was supposed to be designed with upgraded resilient features, and included contingency planning for future disaster events. After 8 years of the devastating floods and funding having been allocated by the World Bank, it seems things are not moving in the right direction.
The Jhelum and Tawi flood recovery projects were aimed at restoring essential services disrupted by the floods and improving the design standard and practices to increase resilience. The said projects were also focussed on to support the recovery and increase disaster resilience in Project Areas, and increase the capacity of the project implementing entities to respond promptly and effectively to an eligible crisis or emergency, but when we see off and on flooding happening on our roads in Srinagar city and drainage systems having been choked it seems things are not moving in good direction vis a vis implementing of these twin projects in Srinagar and Jammu.
Urban Flood Management
Under the Urban Flood Management programme the World Bank provided around 50 million US dollars (Rs 300 Crores) to J&K Govt through Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project. To execute the works an amount of Rs 103 Crores were provided to Srinagar Municipal Corporation -SMC for construction of 49 storm water pumping stations in Srinagar to prevent water-logging and flooding in low lying areas. Out of 49 pumping stations four pump stations were upgraded by the city drainage division of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) at Natipora, Barzulla, Bul Bul Bagh and Magray Pora. These dewatering stations have been set up against all the environmental laws especially because they openly violate the Water (Prevention & Control ) of Pollution Act -1974.
Few stations like the one in Bulbul Bagh Barzulla have been set up against the natural gradient. These water pumping stations can pump out storm water but in addition to it flushes all the liquid waste, sewerage from the localities near Doodh Ganga banks which gets drained into Doodh Ganga. This has been my concern for the last many years as I feel pity on authorities who allowed all this to happen post 2014 floods? This is the reason this author filed a formal petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) a few years back. The NGT penalised the JK Govt with Rs 3 ,crore out of which Srinagar Municipal Corporation -SMC paid Rs 1 crore penalty already last year. In-fact present Commissioner SMC Athar Aamir Khan was concerned about these constructions, but he too was helpless as the works had almost been taken up when he had joined the SMC.
By wrongfully using the World Bank money meant for flood mitigation, the authorities at the helm have not only caused environmental pollution in Doodh Ganga but have also gone against the guidelines of this prestigious financial institution. I would suggest that all the officers who approved the drawing and plans for setting up these pump stations should be taken to task. J&K Pollution Control Committee has already identified 13 drainage stations from Chanapora to Barzulla as the main sources of water pollution in Doodh Ganga which on papers showed that these stations were set up to mitigate the flood water in these areas.
Report filed in JK High Court
As per the report submitted by JK Pollution Control Committee (PCC) before J&K High Court in the matter of suo moto cognizance taken by High Court from a news report published in Greater Kashmir on August 3rd 2019, the then Pollution Control Board had exposed how faecal matter and sewerage was entering Doodh Ganga between Chadoora town to Barzulla and the same water was being lifted by PHE Jal Shakti at Kralpora and supplied to 8 lakh population in Srinagar uptown area. The PCC on the direction of the High Court conducted a detailed survey of Doodh Ganga stream from Sogam village in Chadoora to Barzulla area of Srinagar 2 years back. During the survey a lot of water pollution was found in Doodh Ganga. A copy of that official report is available with this author and has also been placed on record before the NGT. The PIL in JK High Court was closed down as the matter was being heard by NGT now. The 13 pump stations have already been blacklisted by the Pollution Control Committee, but they continue to pump liquid waste into Doodh Ganga. Recently Principal Secretary Housing & Urban Development Department Mr Prashant Goyal and Commissioner SMC assured the NGT’s double bench on May 30th 2023 that within one month things would be streamlined and tenders would be issued for setting up sewerage treatment plants (STPs). The NGT in-fact gave JK Govt 2 months, and I am sure Doodh Ganga will again be restored back.
The constant clay mining in Karewas of Pulwama and Budgam is increasing the silt accumulation in small streams and nallahs during rains which finally enters into Jhelum. A massive de-siltation in Jhelum and Flood Spill channel was taken up post 2014 floods, but the work was not done properly. In fact Wullar lake is filled with silt and that also was not cleared. The construction of residential colonies in the Jhelum flood basin, low lying areas, wetlands and landfilling for the Srinagar Ring Road project from Galander Pampore to Khanda is dangerous and I have discussed this with many experts. The illegal riverbed mining has weakened embankments of most of our rivers and during floods these embankments will be washed away easily. This winter and even until June a lot of snowfall has taken place in our mountains, especially around the Pir Panjaal range. The snow is now melting at a good pace from the last one month and if it rains heavily again we may be flooded again.