Out of the 100 districts identified as multi-hazard in India, 13 are in Jammu and Kashmir. But contrary to the sense of responsibility this ought to have generated in the state’s leaders, planners and authorities, all it has succeeded in is inspiring them with new publicity ideas instead of acting on even on a basic blueprint – like the Draft Disaster Management Policy (2011). This had results like the government’s response last year when the September floods were yet to attain their devastating severity.
Due to nearly 36 hours of incessant rains, the Valley faces a flood threat once again, with authorities already having issued an alert due to Jhelum’s rising waters. Should, heavens forbid, the weather not let up, the threat could easily turn into reality. And, even if the Jhelum does not overflow its banks, the breaches it made in the last deluge need special attention. Although sand bags and sufficient quantity of earth has been used to fill and strengthen the breaches, round the clock vigil is necessary.
The 2011 Draft had stressed on the need to make all bodies linked to disaster management functional within one year, implying that the state should have been reasonably geared to at least handling ‘normal’ floods by 2012. But when the deluge began in 2014, the state could not manage the pumps necessary to drain water out from areas submerged initially, and its employees incapable of operating pumps sent by neighbouring governments. At locations where state-owned pumps were intact, there was no fuel to run them.
The Draft had urged Emergency Operation Centers in every district that would pool resources and coordinate with the State Disaster Management Authority and disaster management authorities at the divisional and district levels. A top government officer had, then, said that the draft would be implemented once the finance and revenue ministries cleared the project.
Since a new dispensation is in charge, the one hope to entertain would be that the weather gives its leader, and the people, the latitude and leeway for course correction – in every way.