Srinagar: Vehicles standing in water and pedestrians wading through it has become a common sight in several areas of Srinagar, which get inundated within hours of rain. The drainage system of the city has become choked with silt brought by the 2014 floods, as much as by the vanishing of natural wetlands and streams.
On Hari Singh High Street, for example, the surface run-off of the water from rain and melting snow accumulates in the absence of an outlet. To add to the chaos, pictures and videos circulated on social and other media make people even more panicky – the impression one gets is that floods are imminent.
“The street becomes waterlogged within no time once it rains,” said Javaid Wani, whose shop is near Hari Singh High Street. “Whenever this happens, we become scared. Sometimes, we start shifting our goods to safer places. When the water accumulates in the street, a slight disturbance sends waves into the ground floor of shops. This kind of waterlogging was not there before the 2014 floods.”
Referring to the flood like situation prevailing on the streets, senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and legislature, wrote on twitter, “Frankly speaking it’s seems we have not learned any lessons from 2014 Floods”.
“We should have prepared. I did not criticize the government. We could not do much due to unrest for seven to eight months. The work on embankment could not be carried out, neither dredging specialists could do much,’ Ansari told Kashmir Reader.
Commissioner Secretary for Housing and Urban development, Hirdesh Kumar however denied that streets and roads in Srinagar were inundated due to the non-cleaning of the pipes and drainage outlets in the aftermath of 2014 floods.
“We have cleaned the pipes and drains after 2014 floods,” Kumar said. “The problem is that there is no proper drainage system in place in Srinagar. We are the process of constructing drainage system under various schemes in different areas of Srinagar. Once it is complete, there will be no water logging,”he said.
Kumar said they have pressed water pumps at various locations to dewater the roads.
Shopkeepers along the exhibition ground and Polo View had similar observations to make.
Kashmir MeT office director Sonam Lotus has been trying to calm fears of a flood. While giving the weather report on his Facebook page on Thursday, Lotus added, “It has been observed on earlier occasions that rainfall for continuous 2 days(48hrs) usually leads to inundation of low-lying area, water logging, etc, in Kashmir valley, obviously due to nature of topography, land use, etc.”
“Since the (weather) system is weakening, a flood of the magnitude of 2014 won’t arise. So please keep cool, be vigilant and stay safe and don’t panic,” he further wrote.
According to civil engineer Iftikhar Drabu, the government did not undertake cleaning of pipes and drains which became choked from silt after the September 2014 floods.
“When the 2014 floods struck Srinagar, the flood water brought silt along with it. As the flood water reduced, the silt settled in the pipes and drains that let out water from the roads,” Drabu said. “It completely choked the outlets. Now, whenever it rains or snows, the surface water cannot flow into the drains and pipes. Thus there is street inundation and waterlogging at many places in the city. The exhibition road is an example. It is in a total mess.”
“Now who will clean the drains and pipes? Using motor pumps will hardly solve the problem,” the engineer said.
He said that areas like Bemina become more frequently flooded as they are low-lying. “The Bemina stretch was a wetland. The surface water used to accumulate there. Doodhganga and other streams used to drain water from that area. But now the outlets are filled and even shopping complexes have been constructed on the wetlands. How do you expect the water to drain away?” Drabu said.
“The Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), which plans the urban development of Srinagar, has itself constructed its office in Bemina. How can you blame people for haphazard development? You need an integrated policy approach to develop the city,” he added.
Minister of State for Urban Development Asiya Naqash declined to comment on whether the pipes and drainage outlets were cleaned or not after the 2014 floods.
“I am in a meeting,” Naqash said when contacted for her comments.