In September 2014, the Kashmir region suffered disastrous floods across many of its districts caused by torrential rainfall. The Indian administrated Jammu & Kashmir, as well as Pakistan administered Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab were affected by these floods.
The state received heavy rainfall from 2 September 2014 onwards, during last stage of monsoon in India. This triggered flooding and landslides in India and the adjoining areas of Pakistan. On 5 September, the Jhelum River in Srinagar was reported to be flowing at 22.40 feet which was 4.40 feet above the danger mark and at 33 feet at Sangam in Anantnag district above the danger mark. The discharge rate in the river was recorded as 70000 m3/s against the normal discharge of 25000 m3/s. The Chenab River was also reported to flow above the danger mark by which hundreds of villages were affected in Pakistan. These rivers flooded into the streets causing heavy casualties and loss of property.
A 2004 analysis by the Jammu & Kashmir Remote Sensing Centre shows that Srinagar and its suburbs alone have lost 55% of the lakes and wetlands area due to encroachments. Between 1911 and 2004, the area of wetlands went down from 13,426 hectares to 6,407.
From present study it’s found that Width of the river jhelum depends on its surrounding area. The Jhelum river is wider at the areas where there is only plantation and narrow where there is built-up. The area under forests has decreased. The decrease in the forest land is due to the increase in built-up and for agriculture. The land surrounding the river is also cleared for different agricultural purposes. When we see the past data we find that the width of the river has greatly changed. The reason behind this is human activites. The catchment area has become the site for the garbage dumping.
In the last 100 years, more than 50 percent of lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum river have been taken over in a similar manner, vastly reducing the river’s drainage capacity. With the increase in population of the city there has been overexploitation of the natural resources. The available area is not sufficient for the growing population. Most of the lakes in the valley had been reduced to their half. The natural drainage channel between lakes and wetlands in Srinagar has been destroyed, due to unplanned urbanization and encroachment, the lakes have lost their power to absorb water the way they used to a century ago and save the city from flood.
The open area of the Dal lake has been reduced to 12 sq km from 24 sq km and its average depth is also reduced to three meter. For this reason the lakes ability to naturally drain out flood water has been greatly suffered. The Srinagar’s natural drainage system has collapsed due to degradation of the lakes. 50% of the water bodies of the Srinagar city have been lost. The comparative analysis of the two topo sheets based on the Year 1903 and 1969 reveal that the stream of the Dood ganga and Nalla Mar have been completely lost while the other lakes and wetlands have experienced considerable shrinkage during the last centuary. The Nalla Mar was lost to a road, Doodh ganga nalla was converted into buildings and shopping malls, and Bemina and Batamalo wetland have been converted into residential colonies, while the other wetlands are presently being subjected to induced land use/land cover change.
The darainage network which is present between anchar, nageen and Dal lake in 1903 mostly disappeared in 1969 due to the reasons stated above. Dal Lake and Nagin Lake which has squeezed from around 36 sq.kms to around 12.5 sq.kms on account of sewage, drainage, garbage disposal, siltation due to soil erosion, agricultural run-off and deforestation of catchment area. The process of shrinkage has further accelerated by the growth of floating gardens and construction of houses in and around the lake.
Due to these factors Kashmir faced floods in 2014 resulting in heavy losses. The worst affected districts were Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Budgam, Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi. To date (September 11), 2015 human lives have been reported lost. It has been reported that 450 villages, with an estimated rural population of 823,281, were flooded.
10,136,063 population was affected among that 8,186,273 were indirectly affected and 1,949,790 were directly affected. 1,406,311 people directly lost their household assets and livelihood. 66,220+ houses were partially affected. 543,379+ people were displaced by flooding and shelter damage. 67,934+ houses were completely damaged, 215+ died and 21,500+ were injured/ sick.
The Kashmir disaster was caused by an event that fell in the ‘very heavy rainfall’ category. The fear is that due to climate change, this can become the new normal.
A projection by PRECIS, a regional climate modeling system, shows that rainfall patterns will change between 2050 and 2100. Rainfall in the sensitive region of the Himalayas will increase by as much as 250 to 500 mm annually while some locations will register an increase of more than 500 mm.
As for Kashmir, while the weathermen have blamed the interaction of the western disturbances with the monsoon current for causing the heavy rains.
The loss of the water bodies of the Srinagar city has in fact a bearing on the microclimate of the city as meteorological data recorded in the mean maximum temperatures during the summers. On July 15,1973, the highest temperature ever recorded in Srinagar was 35.5 degrees Celsius and on July 7, 2006 it was recorded at 39.5 degree Celsius. It was suggested that the rise in mean temperature in the area is mainly due to loss of water bodies. Most important impact of the loss of the water bodies comes in the form of problems relating to drainage. The Srinagar city is facing an acute problems of the drinage since these wetlands and lakes act as sponges during floods, over the years, it has been observed that with a continuous rain for two to three days in the valley, the city is threatened with flood in river jehlum , while nothing would happen with this much of the precipitation two to three decades back. Further it has also been observed during the last decades that residential areas which never flooded in the past are getting inundated during floods in the jhelum. The loss of the drainage of the city over the decade had adverse effect on the city. Due to the human activities these drainages have been blocked and rain water did not pass through these drainages and get accumulated in the city. Further with the increase in the water level in the jehlum, the encroachment of the banks and siltation of the river beds the carrying capacity of the river jehlum has been greatly reduced causing the jehlum to flood. . Wet-lands used to provide an important function of regulation of water regimes especially during floods. These wet lands have been threatened either by explosive spread of obnoxious weed growth, increasing pollution load or due to indiscriminate discharge of domestic effluents and run-off from agricultural fields. Besides, this rapid urbanization has also taken its toll in the form of accretion into these wet lands by way of filling and has given rise to virtual slums due to sub-standard living condition. Not only this, these areas get inundated by frequent floods causing damage to property and human life. Also the width of the jhelum river is not same everywhere.
The irregularity in the width of the river Jehlum is due to the human activities. This become worse because the drainage in these areas no longer exists the water did not find any path to escape and gets accumulated. According to Sunita Narain, director general of CSE In the last 100 years, more than 50 percent of lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum River have been taken over in a similar manner, vastly reducing the river’s drainage capacity. This is the reason why rain for few days cause flood in the city. To avoid these floods these things are of great concern.
It’s we people responsible for the disastrous flood of 2014, but we still fail to learn from our mistakes.