Flood Payback

Reports of illegal sand extraction from rivulets and streams in the Budgam district probably reflect practices in vogue wherever such resources are available in the Valley, a region described not long ago by some outsiders as resembling a permanent construction site. Since the state’s summer capital, a city in a constant state of wayward metamorphosis, can lay claim to an advanced version of the description and be said to resemble a mid-twentieth century ship-breaking yard due to the clamorous sounds of its frenzied development, the local building industry’s fortunes had been assured for the foreseeable future even without help from last year’s floods. Naturally, the rising demand for material to undo the destruction the waters have left behind must be met by exacting vengeance on water itself, and as indiscriminately as the deluge.

Unlike waterbodies, whose choked channels and encroached embankments are said to have reduced their carrying capacity during heavy rainfall, voluntary and involuntary agencies involved in repaying the compliment have to be accorded all assistance possible at the official level to ensure a smooth and hassle-free reconstruction process, and given a free hand to contribute positively to the non-state exchequer. Though reports indicate that much of this is already underway, and with very little effort and modification, the administrative apparatus would need to work a little more to project its performance accurately without sounding stuck in pre-deluge clichés of ‘lack of manpower,’  and ‘mafia’ and ‘No Objection Certificates.’ Undermining operational efficiency usually has consequences far beyond compromising historic mandates, and carries an inherent danger to leave, or reinforce, impressions of a procession of clones passing through revolving doors.

Sukhnag and Ferozepur nullahs, and many other streams and rivers, may undoubtedly be receiving undue and unwelcome attentions of heavy earthmoving machinery, but this ought to be turned into advantage by playing up that cutting-edge technology has been pressed into service to expedite the recovery process. A doubting public can always be convinced by plain and simple truth – the Children’s Hospital, for example, a subject of much debate and criticism for several years, with incoming governments overturning the plans of outgoing governments, and so on, could serve as an effective illustration. The sooner heavy machinery finishes off with the Sukhnag and Ferozepur streams, the sooner it would be possible to build or arrange additional capacity for the hospital. At least, a few more ventilators could be procured for its wards – by auctioning the tipper-trucks and excavators if necessary.