Baramulla: While state government claimed to have worked out many projects to do away with any future flood catastrophe after deadly deluge devastated every nook and corner of the Kashmir valley in 2014, however, it has miserably failed to de-slit the river as dredging process has been on snails pace with thousands of tonnes of silt accumulate every year over this making it prone to floods in future.
From 1962 to 1986 Baramulla was protected from floods due to dredging and de-silting within the range of 15 kilometers from Seer to Khadinyar. But unfortunately the dredging and de-silting of river Jhelum was not carried out since 1986 till Kashmir faced deadly 2014 floods and the consequences were obvious. Had the dredging and de-silting process continued during past several years floods could have been avoided?
Huge amount of silt is accumulated on the banks of river Jhelum during these years and after recent floods it has reduced the suction power of the river. Construction of concrete embankments alongside its banks at number of places enormously shrunk the space of river.
But what saved this historical town from catastrophic floods till 1986 the robust dredging machinery which is now facing official neglect. This machine worth crores is rusting amidst the flow of water in Jehlum River under the nose of authorities.
“You can see the huge dredging machine decaying from decades as authorities hardly pay any attention to it. The dredge- Budshah –is inert with its spare parts scattered at most of the places on the banks of river. Nobody cares, government can either repair it or go for an auction which can get huge money to flood department facing financial crunch,” said a senior social worker Ali Mohammad Lone , formerly a contractor in flood and irrigation department.
“There are several large iron boats, which used to carry sand and gravel, are rusting and nobody cares. Nobody cares about the loss of public exchequer and all exonerate themselves from this responsibility,” rued another local resident Manzoor Ahmed of Baramulla.
A former executive engineer Flood and Control Jatinder Singh talking to The Legitimate said: “After the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1990’s, the dredging machinery couldn’t work in violent conditions and some of its vitals parts were stolen. So they remained idle due to which we lost a great division which helped us in protecting Kashmir from floods for decades.”
Singh said that the machinery gradually developed the technical snags and most of its defunct parts could not be replaced for their non availability in local market.
“This was imported machinery from England and its parts are not available in India,” he added.
Meanwhile, the recent flood caused huge silt deposition all along the river path from South Kashmir to north Kashmir. In such a condition, the experts have already warned of an immense threat to most of the low laying areas. However, the cumulative dredging work done in River Jhelum so far indicates that the authorities are hardly moved by the havoc created by September 2014 floods.
The much-hyped dredging machine hired by authorities for dredging river Jhelum from Srinagar to Baramulla have been busy in sand extraction, leaving slit behind. The move has put authorities under severe criticism and also raised questions over assurances of government against the dredging.
People term the present dredging as “process of looting state resources and doing nothing to avoid any future floods. The Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department has awarded Rs 46 crore project to Kolkata-based dredging firm. People allege that it has proved nothing more than the wastage of public money and time.
Experts here say that it is established fact that each year, the river Jehlum deposits round six inches of silt in its bed and the amount of silt accumulated during past 25 years can easily be calculated. And after floods of 2014 every year government spend corers of rupees on flood control measures with minimum effectiveness.
Experts say that the partial utilization of allocated budget effectively can change the scene and overcome the flood threat in future. “There project is lacking transparency and accountability. It turned anther gold mine for some people so the threat of flood is not overlooked in future,” said one of the officials in the flood and irrigation department.
He said if the government will act sincerely, the effective dredging will not only overcome the flood threats, however, also turn a significant source of income for it.
“In 1990s, the dredging machines were operated for some 13 hours and during that time some 85,000 cubic feet silt was removed from the Jehlum on daily basis. The department earned huge amount of revenue by operating these machines.”