No disaster management in J&K as incessant rain creates havoc in state
Once again the incessant rains, and flash floods in Jammu and Kashmir have washed away the claims, and plans of the state government of building a comprehensive disaster management plan, and even the Disaster Management authority in the state has failed to warn people of the dangers, safeguard them from floods leading to massive loss of life due to rising nullahs, and landslides. It is despite the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has a long history of suffering from natural disasters owing to hilly and rugged train, peculiar topography, being in earthquake zone, and extreme weather conditions. It has also been categorized as multi-hazard prone region and human intervention by construction of roads, rails, and several other civil projects has also lead to altering of the natural course of water which has badly affected the eco-system leading to floods, and consequent loss of life.
In the latest incident over 50 members of a marriage party were feared killed when a bus in which they were travelling was washed away in a flooded nullah in Lam area of Rajouri. Nine more people were killed in flash floods in hilly areas of Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, and Reasi districts in Jammu province where police said 200 more people were trapped due to continuous rains. The administration has sounded high alert as river Chenab, Tawi, Ujh, Suran and other rivers are flowing over the danger mark. Power supply in entire Poonch district has been snapped as many towers and pole have been uprooted due to strong current of water. Main roads in the state have also been closed as there is fear of landslides, and flash floods which could lead to fatal accidents.
In Kashmir valley too the situation is serious with Srinagar city mostly water-logged, and wearing a deserted look. There has been problems for commuters to different districts in Kashmir as connectivity has been badly affected. The situation is worse in Kulgam district where large number of people have been caught in sudden flash floods. Although the police, and army have launched rescue operations, and tried to save people but the lack of an effective and adequate disaster management operation has left the people shocked. In fact, Jammu and Kahsmir is one of the state which does not has an effective State Disaster Management Plan which could help the state in meeting with such eventualities. This is despite the fact that last year, the National Disaster Management Authority had asked the state to develop a plan as this area is particularly prone to natural disasters. The plan to build a disaster management plan in the state has remained confined to paper.
It is also being said that massive construction across the state is also likely to increase the area under drough, lead to heavy precipitation and floods, and could also lead to landslides, and avalanches. Notably, most parts of the Kashmir Valley (11% of the area of the state) covering Srinagar, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar come under Seismic Zone V, where around 50% of the population of the State lives. Low lying areas of the Kashmir Valley, especially Sonawari, Awantipora, Srinagar, alongwith parts of Jammu are prone to floods. Upper catchments of all the tributaries of the Jhelum. Indus, Chenab and Tawi rivers are prone to flash floods. Areas along major highways particularly Ramban, Panthial, Banihal, Doda, Kishtwar, Gulmarg, Dawar, Gurez, Tangdhar, Rajouri etc. are landslide prone. Also Several parts of the state face hazards like thunderstorms, cloud burst, hailstorms, forest fires, dam bursts, heavy snowing, human epidemics and livestock epidemic.
The main problem in Jammu and Kashmir is that State Disaster Management Authority in the present form is not functioning in the right way, and it has only remained an institution which is on paper. Critics says that there is little which this body is doing with regard to planning, oversight, implementation, coordination, quality control and activities connected with monitoring, evaluation, documentation etc. As seen on the ground in J&K there is no disaster management body functioning and the mantle unfortunately has fell on the police, army, and other security forces which are already stretched thin. There is no advanced warning mechanism working in the state which could present the accidents like one which has happened in Lam area of Poonch in which a bridge was washed away. Experts say that unless proper planning is done, it is not possible to save the state from natural calamities and disasters as the government and administration has to function in a reactionary mode which is aimed to handling the present situation but with no eye and plan for future.