SRINAGAR: Four years after floods devastated Kashmir, government authorities on Friday claimed that they were in a “better position” and “well equipped” to deal with floods, but added that there were no out-of-box solutions as natural calamities could not be averted.
According to officials at the Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department, a core group was constituted comprising experts from Central Water Commission and National Institute of Hydrology to deal with floods and work on rehabilitation and reconstruction was started in a phased manner.
“The government as an immediate measure plugged more than three-thousand breaches and weak spots temporarily, and more than twelve-hundred spots were treated permanently along the whole affected stretch,” said Engineer Mohammad Ahsan-ul-Haq, Technical Officer at I&FC.
He said that after the government’s first project, ‘River Jehlum Flood Management Program’, of Rs 399 crore was approved, the government started the first phase of the programme. Out of Rs 399 crore, Rs 142 crore was utilised for land acquisition for the existing flood channel at Sharifabad and Naidkhai. The rest of the project cost was spent on dredging and other related works and for building two bridges at the same places.
The dredging project was allotted to a Kolkata-based company to increase the carrying capacity of Jhelum river, Wular lake and its flood spill channel. The department also purchased two dredgers from Italy to expedite the work, Haq said.
“In the second phase, de-siltation work on the Hokersar wetland would be done as it is heavily silted. Wular lake and Out Fall Channel (OFC) from the lake would be also dredged and widened. It will increase the capacity of the lake and flow of the Jhelum would increase,” Haq said.
The government is also working on the third phase, which would be a long-term flood mitigation plan, he said. In this phase, a foreign firm from Spain is doing a survey in the valley and will prepare a plan to deal with floods.
“We cannot avert the floods but, yes, we are in better position to deal with them. People also have to cooperate and the department cannot deal with everything. People have to be aware of the consequences if we play with nature,” Haq said.
Director of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Amir Ali, said that they are well-equipped this time to deal with a flood situation in the valley.
“We have pooled all the resources from different departments to work effectively in case of any eventuality. Apart from government men and machinery, a resource inventory has been prepared at district levels of private-sector machinery, so that they can be also called for assistance if needed,” Amir said.
He said that vulnerable areas have been mapped and divided into zones. Various government and voluntary organisations have been trained in these zones, he said.
“We have also established relief and rescue centres with all the necessary supplies and sanitation facilities. Also, the de-watering pumps which were submerged in 2014 floods have been elevated, so that they can be used in times of floods,” he said.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan has also directed for close coordination between departments to deal with any calamity. He has directed Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to conduct disaster management mock drills, especially related to floods, in the summer capital.