Srinagar: Observing that floods are manmade disasters, the high court Monday directed the chief secretary to file a ‘consolidated’ reply to a Public Interest Litigation alleging “criminal negligence” by officials before and during last year’s devastating floods in the state.
Hearing clubbed PILs, a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey also directed authorities including SMC, LAWDA and Chief Engineer mechanical division to take immediate steps for dewatering the areas of Srinagar city and report compliance by April 13.
“It is made clear that earlier on last opportunity of four weeks was granted for filing the reply affidavit. In case the affidavit is not filed before next date, then Chief Secretary to appear in person before the court,” the court said while hearing the PIL filed by advocate Azhar-ul-Amin in the aftermath of floods last year.
The petitioner has alleged criminal negligence ranging from direct acts of interference with flood protection measures, structural and non-structural, engineering and biological in most parts of Srinagar.
“None of the measures required to be taken according to flood manuals were actually followed before and during the floods,” he says.
“Though the state claimed to be in readiness for floods, actually and factually it was false,” the petitioner said, asserting that instances are galore where timely measures could have prevented breaches.
“There were no sand bags or appropriate officials to plug smaller breaches those took horrendous proportions for lack of proper management. State machinery was totally absent on the fateful day.”
The run-off, he said, was mismanaged and the use of flood basin and traditional reservoir was delayed for “vote bank politics.”
“State is under obligation to explain as to why run-off was not managed and proper measures not taken appropriately.”
Except Chief Engineers of Flood Control & Irrigation Kashmir, other respondents in the PIL including Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, R & B Department, Public Health Engineering Departments and Deputy Commissioner Srinagar have not filed the reply affidavits.
Nearly three hundred people were killed and 261,361 structures damaged by the devastating floods last year.
The petitioner has sought constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the role of officers “guilty of criminal negligence” before and during the floods.
The officers found guilty, he said, be punished and those affected be compensated for loss of life and property.
He said that the magnitude of the flood has been fabricated by the state to create an excuse for its criminal negligence.
“It is absence of disaster management, mismanagement of runoff and total absence of state machinery at the critical time that caused inundation of city and not the magnitude of flood,” he added.