Editorial: The hanging sword of floods

The wettest April in decades ended with a grim reminder that Kashmir Valley continues to remain under a constant threat of floods and inundation. In beginning of the month, a flood threat loomed large as the Jhelum River and its tributaries flowed closer to the brink with every likelihood of breaches at several places.

The authorities announced flood threat and residents in low lying areas were asked to remain vigilant. The situation was no different at the culmination of the month when heavy rainfall in the plains and snowfall in the mountainous areas increased the water discharge in the river and the nullahs to dangerous levels.

It is ironical that every time when there is a moderate or heavy dose of rainfall, the flood threat looms over many parts of Valley especially the Srinagar city. The residents of Srinagar and parts of south Kashmir, which bore the brunt of unprecedented flood devastation in September 2014, continue to get flashbacks when the water levels tend to increase in the River Jhelum. It is not only a psychological response to a situation but more so reflects the unpreparedness of the authorities to deal with flood-like situations.

It is a sordid state of affairs that Srinagar city continues to look like a devastated and plundered place, even around three years after the flood wreaked havoc on it. The pollution levels are high. Dust and suspended particles dominate the air. The main roads and the interior links are in the worst-ever condition with potholes and craters everywhere visible, sometimes becoming life-threatening for walkers or commuters. Worse, the drains are either non-existent or mostly choked. A little drizzle inundates the roads, not to speak about the rainfall that continues for several hours or days.

By Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s own admission, the dredging process in River Jhelum, which was taken up with great earnestness and priority, has not yielded the projected results. The process has been mostly sluggish and subservient to the mood of the engineers and contractors.

During the inter-ministerial meeting on Kashmir in New Delhi last week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the progress on Rs 80,000 crore package announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2015. A good chunk of money was earmarked on dredging of the river and establishing drainage system. Ironically, there has been little progress on both the projects.

An easy excuse with the officers is the law and order situation in Kashmir that has been quite worrisome and not conducive for developmental pursuits. It is partly true as most of the working season in 2016 was consumed by shutdowns and curfews. There has been quite a good span since the atmosphere to work on developmental projects returned to normalcy. But the executing agencies have failed to avail the opportunity and set a tone for meeting deadlines. This is a sad commentary on our functioning style and one of the primary reasons for our region to lag behind. This needs an overhaul and the authorities have to fix responsibilities in order to set the system on proper track.

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