By Sant Sharma
It may look a trifle out of place now to talk of dredging in Jhelum river now that floods have already hit the Kashmir valley. However, it is not out of place to point out that for about three decades prior to 2008-09, there was almost no dredging at all.
Those who understand the dynamics of dredging and how vital it is for maintaining, in good health, the hydrological regime of rivers, know it too well that the situation in Kashmir would have been infinitely worse had dredging not been taken up in earnest some years ago. The silt load of Jhelum has been reduced by this dredging thereby enhancing its carrying capacity and this has been helped.
Incidentally, it bears mention here that the first major recorded flood in Kashmir was in 1893. In fact, if we want to be exact, this dates back to July 21, 1893, and was recorded at Shergarhi gauge. The Shergarhi gauge, the first and the only gauge set up in 1893, read R.L 1584.60M.
As calculated by Dr. Tickell, in service of the Kashmir durbar, the full flood was 1,750 Cumecs (61,800 Cusecs ) and the quantity that passed through Srinagar was estimated at 1,060 Cumecs (37,400 Cusecs). All the bridges, except Amira Kadal, were destroyed.
The valley also witnessed major floods in year, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1905, 1912, 1929, 1948, 1950, 1957 and 1959. The first early intervention into hydrological regimes of Jhelum river took place in December 1902 with the primary objective of:
• Mitigation of floods in Srinagar and downstream settlements through improving drainage options leading to reduced retention of flood flows in the valley
• I increasing area under agriculture through reclamation of marshes, which were considered to be unproductive, waste lands. Considered to be unproductive wastelands
• The third objective was envisaged to store water in Wular Lake by way of construction of a barrage.
• Accordingly, dredging works were commenced by the Darbar in the reach from Sopore to Baramulla.
During these operations, it was also realized that lowering water levels in Jhelum would require cutting through the rocky boulder and boulder obstructions downstream of Baramulla Town. Dredging works led to decline in lake levels at Sopore by at least three feet.
• Between 1929 and 1948 the Valley did not experience any major floods; and the flood problem receded almost into oblivion. However, as ill-luck would have it, this lucky span of flood-free years was not to last long and the valley was almost over-run by another major floods in 1948,
• The then state government, headed by Jenab Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, in 1948, concerned about the problem, requested the then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru for a dredger. Subsequently, a dredger was imported by the government of India and handed over to Jammu and Kashmir in 1950. It was commissioned by Pt. Nehru himself.