Govt in slumber, don’t assume floods to be once-in-a-century phenomenon: HC
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has pulled up government for remaining in “slumber” post 2014 floods and asked it not to assume the deluge to be once-in-a-century phenomenon.
“It is inefficiency and negligence on your part that floods of 2014 caused huge havoc. It took so many lives as also washed away everything of the general public but you (government functionaries) are still in deep slumber as nothing has improved on ground level. Do not assume that floods occur once in hundreds years,” observed a division bench of Chief Justice Badar Durez Ahmad and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation.
The court directed the government to inform it in a tabulated form as to what was required to be done and what is actually done in ‘phase-I’ of the dredging of Jhelum as well as other measures taken to prevent reoccurrence of flood.
It also directed government to give details in tabulated form of Phase-II (enumerating long term measures) by next date of hearing of the PIL, filed by one Peer Noor-ul-Haq, seeking directions to remove encroachments to restore Padshahi canal, an age old irrigation passage which takes off from nallah Sindh near Wayil Bridge in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, to its original position. Later, the high court expanded the purview of the PIL and issued directions for safeguarding the Jhelum, the lifeline of Kashmir Valley.
“You have to increase the water holding capacity in Wular Lake also,” the court said.
It also directed government to establish the authority (chairman and its three members) under J&K Water Resources Act 2010 within two weeks, observing that “same is largely violated because there is no authority existing under the Act from 2015.”
It also directed chief engineer Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) Department to indicate in the affidavit as to how the Act has been implemented till today.
The observations and directions followed perusal of a compliance report filed by the Chief Engineer I&FC that the department has allotted the work of dredging of river Jhelum from the Beel-Mouth area of flood spill channel near Mahjoornagar to Panzinara in Srinagar, amounting Rs 20.23 crore, and out fall channel of river from Sopore to Sheeri Baramulla, amounting Rs 26.77 crore, to a West Bengal based company.
The total quantity of the material to be dredged out as per the contract, the chief engineer said, is seven lakh metric cubes in Srinagar and 9.15 lakh metric cubes in Baramulla. Till date, the chief engineer said, 2.30 lakh cums have been dredged out in Srinagar and 2.3 lakh cums in Baramulla.
About removal of encroachments at Padshahi Canal, Doodh Ganga, Lidder, Choonti Kul and Ferozpora Nallah, the chief engineer said 2800 trees and 38 structures, 16370 trees and 72 structures, 33418 trees and 13 structures and 8040 trees have been removed respectively.
On previous hearing, the High Court warned authorities against any lapse in ensuring complete drudging of river Jhelum and removal of encroachments along its course, saying it may “definitely give rise to a catastrophe” like devastating floods in 2014.
“Once a catastrophe has been experienced, the aftermath of catastrophic flood of 2014 have left the scars but at the same time authorities concerned are awakened, therefore, there can be no chance for exhibiting remiss and in case any type of indolence is shown in completing the drudging process at convenient speed coupled with the removal of encroachments, the authorities concerned shall have to be personally answerable,” the court had said and expressed hope that the department will leave no stone unturned and make every effort to restore the pristine glory of river Jhelum.