SRINAGAR: Recent snowfall and rains have caused a sudden surge in the levels of water in River Jhelum causing panic among many residents living along its banks.
With memories of the devastating 2014 floods still fresh in minds, several residents spent sleepless nights after watching the soaring water levels despite knowing well that the probability of floods was the least in winter season.
For 24-year-old Hamid Nabi of Qamarwari, the snowfall was not an occasion of celebration but a “headache”.
“I haven’t slept for past five days, I just kept looking at the river from my window to monitor the water level,” said Hamid.
Abdul Majeed, 50, of Raj Bagh locality in Srinagar has been in a state of anxiety with the water level in the river rising.
For Majeed the rising water level brings back the ghosts of 2014 when his three storey house was almost completely inundated in the deluge. He and his family had to seek refuge in their balcony and were rescued by a group of volunteers after three days.
“I cannot concentrate on my work these days. I make hundreds of calls to my wife to get information about the water level,” said Majeed.
However, Chief Engineer Flood Control and Irrigation Haneef Lone said the current water levels were not a matter of concern.
“There is nothing to panic, floods do not occur in winter. However, we are prepared to face any such threat,” said Haneef.
However, the people are not impressed by the assurances of the flood control department because of their past experiences.
“Last time (in 2014) we made a mistake by believing that Srinagar will never get inundated,” said Waqas Khan of Srinagar’s Nawab Bazar. He said the people cannot take the weather warnings and rising water levels as for granted.
A senior official in the department of Irrigation and Flood Control, described the panic shown by people as a positive sign
“There was heavy rainfall in the upper reaches of the valley, quite unnatural in winters, which led to melting of snow. This increased the water level in river Jhelum forcing the people to raise alarm,” he said.
He said the government was not ready to face a 2014-like flood situation. “The arrangements made to tackle such floods are in its nascent stage,” he said wishing not to be identified.
“It (flood prevention) is a big project. It will take at least 10 years for implementation,” he said.
He said that in case of a flood, the authorities can only issue a prior warning to public. “The maximum we can do is issuing a flood-alert or a warning. We are not prepared to face a flood,” he said.
However, Lone dismissed the notion as “assumption”. “The government is prepared to face any flood situation. There are enough means to control the 2014-like floods,” he said.