September 11, 2014
The government in the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir has declared the Kashmir region flooded as River Jhelum has crossed the danger level and many other small rivers are flowing menacingly high following incessant rain since March 28.
All schools, colleges and universities across Kashmir have been closed indefinitely.
The Srinagar-Jammu national highway has been closed again by landslides, leaving hundreds stranded along the main road link between Kashmir and the rest of India.
Police have recovered eight bodies under collapsed houses in Chadora area of the central district of Budgam, and say another dozen people are feared dead. Over 350 people in landslide-prone areas across Kashmir have been taken to safer places.
The weather office has predicted more rain till April 4.
Javid Jaffer, chief engineer in the Irrigation and Flood Control department of Kashmir, told thethirdpole.net that the Jhelum crossed the danger mark of 22 feet at Sangam in south Kashmir on March 30, while a flood-monitoring device in Ram Mushibagh in the state’s summer capital Srinagar crossed the danger mark of 18 feet.
“If more rains occur, as predicted by the meteorological department, the flood situation will worsen. But, if light rains occur intermittently, then we may get away from any severe flooding,” Jaffer said.
Following the inputs from the Flood Control department, the government declared that Kashmir has been flooded and “people living in low lying areas, especially in and around Jhelum have been advised to move to safer areas.” Government officials said that around 50 structures and three bridges have been damaged so far in the floods.
No one has been drowned in the flood waters yet, but many roads in Srinagar are waterlogged, reviving memories of disastrous floods in the city last September. Residents are angry as the authorities failed to improve drainage after the floods last autumn.
The central government in New Delhi has sent a 100-member team of the National Disaster Relief Force and a team of monitors.
With the flood-control infrastructure in Kashmir needing updates and repairs for years now, continuous rains for even 36 hours turn out to be sufficient to flood Kashmir.
The carrying capacity of the Flood Spill Channel (FSC) and River Jhelum (43,000 cubic feet per second or cusec) is quite insufficient. Nor are water bodies and wetlands across Kashmir in a position to hold surplus water. “Earlier our wetlands like Hokersar used to hold rains for more than 72 hours, but these days its capacity has got reduced to just around 18 hours,” Jaffer said.
The 43,000 cusec capacity of flood channels in Kashmir including Jhelum was way short of the 1 15,126 cusec which flowed through Jhelum during the September 2014 floods.
Flooding is not the only problem. In the past few weeks, there have been many landslides. Five people including a minor were killed in them.
Sense of déjà vu
The new flood threat has sent spasms of fear among people in the Himalayan valley, often dubbed the Switzerland of Asia for its breath-taking beauty.
With memories of the September 2014 devastating floods still fresh in their memory, people woke up to ominous headlines in local newspapers March 30 morning. “Flood fear again” read a banner headline of the leading English daily, Greater Kashmir.
Srinagar residents have been receiving frantic telephone calls from relatives and friends as the threat has flooded social media channels as well.
The 2014 flood was described by Global Catastrophe Recap as the costliest disaster of the year, ruining property worth $16 billion, besides killing more than 300 people.
Experts have warned that such events will occur with more frequency in future because of climate change.
A research article published in Scientific American on March 5, 2015 says that river flooding will worsen in the coming years with the biggest disruptions expected in Asia – mostly in India followed by Bangladesh and China.
Kashmir’s department of Environment, Ecology and Remote Sensing has predicted that the number of rainy days in the Himalayan region may increase by 5–10 days on an average in the 2030s and by more than 15 days in Jammu and Kashmir.