Srinagar: Experts have raised questions over the government logic to dredge the widest part of the river Jhelum in Srinagar. Civil Engineer Iftikhar Drabu told Reader that it was beyond his comprehension why the administration decided to dredge this part of the river when other narrower stretches were blocking the flow of the water.
“This stretch does not need widening. There are narrower stretches, which means bottlenecks, beyond this point in Zaina Kadal and Fateh Kadal,” Drabu said. “During the 2014 floods, the water at Zero Bridge did not touch the bridge girders, but in Zaina Kadal and Fateh Kadal it touched the bridge, which clearly means that that patch in the river needed dredging as it blocks the flow of the river. There was only 0.5m gap between the flood water and the bridge at Zaina Kadal and Fateh Kadal. The water blocking led to increased pressure of water in the widest patch of the river, leading to the flooding of the city.”
Drabu said that the logic behind dredging this part of the river can only be that it is visible from the areas where the administrative offices are. “The chief minister, the engineers, and the ministers can stand on Zero Bridge and look at the work going on. It is visible to people as well, as most of the transport passes through this area,” Drabu said.
Minister of State for Irrigation and Flood Control, Farooq Andrabi, said that the spot was chosen because the engineers decided it was the most vulnerable part of the river. “They said if we dredge this part, it will absorb the brunt of the river,” Andrabi said.
Due to lack of dredging in the Jhelum, the city is facing imminent threat of flood, the water rising to alarming levels in the first week of April.
The government had asked a Kolkata-based company to dredge out one-lakh fifty-thousand cubic meters of silt from about a six-kilometre stretch of the river from Shivpora onwards. The work is far from finished and Andrabi said that the contract with the Kolkata-based company has been cancelled.
“We have ended the contract. We told them that their work was not up to the mark,” the minister said.
An engineer of the company, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that till March they had scooped out one-lakh cubic feet of silt from the river. “We started work in February 2016. We had to complete it by March 1, 2017. Sue to the 2016 turmoil in the Valley, we could not work,” the engineer said. “We chose this area for dredging because the government had asked us to do so.”
The engineer said that when they attempted to work during 2016, they were stopped from doing so. “We were told when the entire Kashmir is shut, why will we work?” the engineer said.
“Besides, there is no dumping site for the silt. All places we were given were already heaped with silt. So, partly the government and partly the situation, led to delay in the work,” he said.
Locals said that the work done by the dredgers will bear no fruit. “One, the silt which they removed has again filled the river. Second, there is no pace, no planning,” a local said. “We pray that the floods do not return.”