There have been devastating floods in Kashmir in the past too, but the present one may have reached a magnitude unprecedented for several decades. In more recent times, the first anti-flood work was taken up in 1903 during Maharaja Pratap Singh’s reign after massive floods of 1902. At that time, construction of flood spill channel was started to divert some discharge of the Jhelum river at Patshahibagh to save Srinagar city.
Massive floods were witnessed in Kashmir in 1950 again and these floods focused the government’s attention towards the problem in a major way. The wide spread devastation led to the formulation of a master plan in consultation with the Central Water and Power Commission in 1959. The project cost was pegged at Rs 21 crores and it was then that a separate Department of Flood Control was created.
Dredgers and heavy earth moving machinery was deployed and discharge capacity of outfall channel from Wullar to Khadanyar was enhanced, from 17,000/19,000 to 40,000/45,000 cusecs corresponding to Wullar lake level of 5180 ft. This resulted in quicker drainage of Wullar Lake and also faster drainage of Jhelum below Srinagar city.
According to some officials, the discharge of Jhelum river at Sangam is about 90,000 cusecs. At present, the Jhelum can cater to about 30,000 cusecs at Srinagar and another 10,000 cusecs can be taken care of by Flood Spill Channel.
If not for encroachments and rapid unplanned urbanization near Jhelum in Dogripora and Kandizal, the discharge capacity would be higher thereby endangering lesser lives and properties. Srinagar city is indeed very, very vulnerable and calls for a strategy for the flood management of the Kashmir valley as a whole.
The Irrigation & Flood Control (I&FC) Department initiated action for the formulation of a master plan in 1997. But the project was delayed, stalled and mutilated by an official who opposed the award of the work to a Delhi-based firm, according to an insider who has worked with I&FC Department. This former official claims that this dog in the manger policy adopted by some state officials have harmed Kashmir immensely.