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Frequent warnings about dangers of construction

The report, prepared in 2009, is learnt to have been focused on the state’s ability to cope with natural disasters, especially with fire and floods.

Written by Sumegha Gulati | New Delhi |
September 9, 2014 3:10:43 am

More than five years ago, the J&K chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had predicted widespread devastation due to natural disasters in the Valley. INTACH officials said the Omar Abdullah government had accepted the recommendations in the report, but the project never took off.

The report, prepared in 2009, is learnt to have been focused on the state’s ability to cope with natural disasters, especially with fire and floods.

“We had observed that construction in low-lying areas of Srinagar, especially along the banks of the Jhelum, had blocked discharge channels of the river. The presentation was submitted to the state government,” Saleem Beg, convener of INTACH (J&K), told The Indian Express on Monday.

The INTACH report observed that the Jhelum bund — first built by Dogra ruler Pratap Singh over a century ago with the aim of keeping bungalows of his officers safe from floods, but which was, over the years, concretised and encroached upon, had exacerbated the problem.

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“The authorities had thought that concrete will stop the flood, but it only caused more flooding. They should have dredged the Jhelum because its current outflow is improper. The Omar government, after our recommendation, had planned to undertake the dredging project but the idea was dropped,” Beg said.

He added, though, that “given the vast amount of rainfall received”, the flood would likely have been unavoidable in any case.

“The quantity of water received is extremely huge this time, so the current floods could not have been stopped no matter what we did. This would still have happened. But having said that, the state is not prepared for flood management. The low-lying areas in Srinagar such as Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Chanpora etc. are completely under water. The same is the case in almost every city. Parts of Kashmir always get flooded because we have not left any flood channels,” Beg said.

Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) said the authorities had been warned of the risks of building when a new hydropower project on the Jhelum was proposed in Ganderbal district recently.

“After the 2013 Uttarakhand floods, we had said that disaster potential studies should be carried out on proposed projects. The point was reiterated in July when the Ganderbal project in Kashmir was proposed. It again came up when the hydropower project in Sach Khas on Chenab came up for environmental clearance last month, in August. But no heed has been paid,” Thakkar told The Indian Express.

A 2012 forecast by the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) too had predicted massive flooding in J&K, Thakkar said.

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