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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The flood effect: Centre asks if Jhelum can be made to skirt Srinagar

The proposal to divert the Jhelum is not new, official sources said.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: September 30, 2014 2:00:21 pm
A damaged houseboat on the banks of Jhelum river in Srinagar. (Source: PTI) A damaged houseboat on the banks of Jhelum river in Srinagar. (Source: PTI)

Following the worst-ever floods in Jammu & Kashmir earlier this month, the Centre has asked a team of experts to assess whether the Jhelum river can be diverted around Srinagar town to avoid a similar catastrophe in the future.

The decision comes after J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few days ago seeking an in-depth study on whether an alternative channel for the Jhelum could be created to carry extra water during a flood.

Accordingly, an expert team under chairman of the Central Water Commission has been asked to assess the reasons for the flooding, and whether an alternative channel circling the town is technically and financially feasible.

The proposal to divert the Jhelum is not new, official sources said. It has been talked about in the state as a permanent solution to the flooding and water-logging that is regularly witnessed during the rainy season. It is estimated that Rs 8,500 crore would be required to create this channel. However, the proposal was never concrete enough to be included in formal discussions between the state government and the Centre during earlier meetings on flood control measures.

Officials, however, said that even if an additional channel to carry Jhelum water was in place, it could not have prevented the kind of flooding witnessed this year.

“This year was an unprecedented situation. There is little that can be done to avoid this kind of a situation,” CWC chairman Ashwin Pandya said.

Interestingly, till March this year, the Centre and the state government were discussing a Rs 2,000 crore plan to strengthen the embankments of the Jhelum, which gave in during heavy rainfall at the start of September. This was the primary reason for sudden flooding of Srinagar town, most of which lies lower than the river-bed of the Jhelum. The project was still to take a final shape and would have been carried out over the next few years. As an immediate step, however, Rs 100 crore was given to the state government to do emergency repair on the embankments, but it turned out to be a case of too little, too late.

The expert team under Pandya has now been instructed to conduct a comprehensive study of the Jhelum flood plain and explore every option — not just the option to create an alternative channel, which some experts consider not viable — to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. The team is likely to submit its report by October-end.

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