Srinagar: How quickly will Kashmir recover from the shock and trauma this land of meadows, lakes and rivers underwent during the recent floods? Financially, within a few months or years, but emotionally, perhaps never.
For years, there had been warnings that no matter how much the greed and need of humankind to encroach and vandalise rivers, lakes and forests, one day these ecosystems would reclaim their original borders.
This was ironically ignored by Kashmiris to their own detriment.
Going by historical records, except for its expansion in the north towards Ganderbal and some highlands in the central Badgam districts, the entire growth of summer capital Srinagar through residential colonies, business centres and even government infrastructure creation has for over 130 years been in the flood basin of the Jhelum river that flows through the city.
Historical records, including revenue records of the state government, prove that densely-populated and upscale residential areas left of the Jhelum are its old flood basin.
Walter Lawrence, the British land revenue settlement commissioner of Dogra maharaja Pratap Singh, noted that this huge flood basin had taken the brunt of the 1893 deluge and formed a huge lake right up to the present central Kashmir’s Badgam district.
“Ironically, the entire flood basin that saved Srinagar in 1893 from greater devastation was vandalised through mindless planning for urbanisation,” Hakim Showkat Ali, a well known hydraulic engineer and a retired chief engineer, told IANS.
“Most of the swollen waters of the Dal Lake were drained through the ‘Nallah Mar’ (Serpentine canal) that went round the city and drained all its surplus waters into the Jhelum.
“Not only has the majority of Dal Lake’s original area been encroached upon over the years, but some of our ‘visionary politicians and town planners’ in the mid-1960s chose to fill up the ‘Nallah Mar’, which is today a wide road going around the entire old Srinagar city with shops and houses around it.
“This has been the reason that the present flood inundated some areas due to the choking of water drainage systems because of the swollen Dal Lake,” Showkat Ali added.
Ironically, Showkat Ali’s house in Srinagar was also inundated by flood waters and he and his wife were rescued by a private boat. His brother, who lived next door, could not be rescued for four days.
Kashmir was called the “Venice of Asia” because of the serpentine Nallah Mar. Most navigation and trade transport of Srinagar was done through this canal.
Would this angry warning by nature to Kashmiris not to mess with her lakes, rivers, forests and flood basins be taken seriously so that a greater warning is not needed to jolt them out of their greed?
Well, the future generations would know. One can only hope they don’t have to pay for the follies of their forefathers.