SRINAGAR: If there is one place that comes closest to giving the famed Mughal Gardens a run for their money these days, it is Ram Munshi Bagh, which hosts one of the three main flood gauges along the course of the Jhelum.
The place, otherwise known for being home to a police station of the same name, became one of the most visited spots after the last year’s devastating floods.
“As one Facebook user quipped, ‘our lives have been reduced to the reading on Ram Munshi Bagh gauge’. Every rainfall would send curious people running to this area,” said Mohammad Azeem, who had gone to “see the reading on the gauge himself” on Tuesday, a day after another flood alarm had been sounded.
Besides Sangam in south Kashmir and Asham in the north, RM Bagh gauge is the third flood measuring site along the Jhelum.
With the weatherman predicting dry weather from now on, RM Bagh may not draw curious crowds anymore.
But seasons do not change anything for Gauge Readers, whose daily job is to record the water level in the river on an hourly basis.
“If it rises above 12 feet (alarm level is 16 feet, flood threat is declared at 18 and flood is declared at 22 feet) we have to work round the clock and provide regular updates to officials and media,” said Basharat Hussain, a Gauge Reader.
Another Gauge Reader, Muhammad Ashraf, said, “Hundreds of people visit whenever there is threat of floods. We also get visitors during night and many of them upload the information on Internet even before we communicate it to departments.”
To know the river mood the readers note down the river height on the rust proof and calibrated scientifically fixed by hydraulic engineers that lets these readers know the height of the river.
Ashraf said the water level is measured directly from the calibrated scales on the rust-proof, vertical gauge. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department, he said, has data of water level in Jhelum for the past 50 years.
Hussain said that earlier the telecommunication department would install a phone line during floods for communication, while policemen deployed in flood prone areas would keep the government informed with the help of wireless sets.
“Now mobile phones have made the job easier,” Hussain said.
More advanced technologies are on way. An automatic gauge reading device was installed by National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) just before September floods, but the officials said that its sensor developed snag and all its recorded data was erased.
The gauge plate installed at the site reads up to 8 metres or 26.24 feet, but the level during September flood touched 29.5 feet.
Contrasted with this high, the river also witnesses the lowest level during winters. The lowest ever was recorded in February 2001, when the flood level touched a notch above four inches.
The gauge site was set up during the rule of Dogra monarchs at a time when a single chief engineer headed all departments under the PWD.
The RM Bagh site also has a hydraulic gate to control the flow of Dal waters. Another such gate is located at Gaw Kadal.