Three months ahead of the September floods in 2014, a Kashmir-born British citizen who specializes in disaster medicine, and works for an international charity affiliated to the United Nations, had volunteered to train state police personnel in disaster preparedness and response to natural calamities. With work acknowledged and appreciated the world over, the specialists services could have been utilized to make the state’s disaster response cell a vibrant and effective body. But the government did not heed the offer and people paid a heavy price – in the September floods. A flood threat looms large on Kashmir yet again, barely six months later, and when still reeling under the after-effects.
There is no denying the fact that the state has a disaster management cell but it is confined to furnishing weather reports which are even otherwise available for everyone on the internet. The cell needs to be strengthened. It must have the required staff and infrastructure to cope with emergencies that emerge after natural calamities. In addition to being flood-prone, the state is also seismically vulnerable, and neither of the threats is a new discovery. But time and time again, authorities appear to have been caught napping, and start digging wells when the flames have flickered into life.
Civil society in Kashmir has taken the issue (the lack of disaster preparedness) seriously. Especially, it has expressed serious concern over loss of lives and property in Budgam district. Civil society in Jammu must rise to the occasion and join hands with its counterpart in Kashmir, as unity needs to be forged for an effective disaster response mechanism. This must not fall prey to politics.