Parliamentary Panel calls for fitting response to ‘national disaster’

SRINAGAR, JUNE 04: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources today said the devastating floods of September 2014 not only resulted in loss of precious human lives but also caused colossal loss to the households, businesses, livestock, crops and fruits in Jammu and Kashmir and a massive effort is needed for relief and rehabilitation, which is not possible without the liberal financial support of the Central Government.

Addressing a press conference here today Chairman of the Parliamentary Panel, Mr Hukum Singh said that a comprehensive flood-protection mechanism also needs to be put in place in the State to avert such disasters in future. He was flanked by Mr Tariq Hameed Karra, MP, who is also a member of the panel.

The Parliamentary Panel concluded its 4-day visit to Kashmir today.

Terming the 2014 deluge a “national disaster”, the Chairman laid emphasis on the “dire” need of funds from the Centre for relief and rehabilitation of people affected by the floods.

“I feel it was a national disaster and only national resources can address the problems. Relief and rehabilitation cannot be done by the state government,” Hukum Singh, who heads a 31-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources, told reporters.

Singh said the state government cannot address the problems on its own and needs support from the Centre.

“There is a dire need of funds here because the state government perhaps cannot do it on its own. The committee has taken an assessment of the situation and recommended more help from the Centre,” he said.

“We have taken our assessment and we will give our recommendations to the Parliament and we will try to keep our recommendations to the point so that more and more help comes from the Central government,” he said.

Singh said though rehabilitation was a top priority of the government, there was an opportunity to remove the encroachments on the rivers and flood-spill channels.

“Rehabilitation is a top priority. Those who have not yet resettled in their houses should be able to do so sooner. And there also is an opportunity for the government now to remove the encroachments,” he said, adding that the committee would submit its report in less than a month.

The Chairman said that the Committee will recommend to the central government for granting liberal funding to Jammu and Kashmir to address both the immediate concerns of relief and rehabilitation and implement a long term strategy for flood protection.

During the meetings and discussions with the Committee, the state government functionaries put forth their point of view with regard to short term and long term plans for flood management.

The Committee was informed that the State Government has submitted a proposal for flood management under “Priority works-Comprehensive plan of Flood Management works on Jhelum-Phase-I in Kashmir” at an estimated cost of Rs 399.29 crores. The proposal has been approved by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of Union Ministry of Water Resources, the Committee was informed.

The State government projected for immediate funding to start the flood management works for the benefit of the affected population of the valley. The functionaries laid thrust for a special package under Prime Minister’s Special Assistance Plan considering the devastation caused by the floods of September 2014. They also requested for establishment of flood forecasting and warning systems and flood zoning of the State.

In the long term the State Government has projected a comprehensive plan which involves creation of small storage on the tributaries of the river Jhelum, creation of additional supplementary flood channel. It also requested for providing Rs 20 crore immediately for the studies and formulation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) for Comprehensive Flood Management Project within the Prime Minister’s Special Package.

The State functionaries projected that the existing water bodies wetlands and lakes like Narkara, Khushalsar, Anchar, Gilsar, Hokersar, Nowgam Jheel, Haigam Jheel and Wullar Lake be dredged immediately to mitigate future anticipated flood discharge.

The State Government projected for reverting to 90:10 funding pattern for effective implementation of flood management programme in J&K. It also called for similar pattern of funding for major, medium and minor irrigation schemes in the State.

Speaking on the occasion, Tariq Hameed Karra, MP, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Panel on Water Resources said the Committee members during their stay in Kashmir visited various flood affected areas and held extensive deliberations with the State Government officials to get an insight into the colossal damage caused by September 2014 floods and the measures to be taken to prevent recurrence of such disasters in future.

Mr Karra said the matter of immediate concern for the State Government is rehabilitation of the people affected by last year’s floods and reconstruction of the public infrastructure damaged by the deluge. He said the ambitious effort needs matching resources for which the Government of India shall have to come forward with a special package. “This is an area where the Parliamentary Standing Committee can and will chip in with its recommendations,” he said.

Karra said in the long term a multi-pronged approach consisting of measures of prevention, protection, management, forecasting and early warning are needed to manage any future flood threat in Kashmir effectively.

He expressed gratitude to the head of the panel and its members for visiting the State on his initiative to take first-hand review of the situation in the aftermath of the September 2014 floods.

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