Rainfall Fallout: Several bridges, roads; dozens of schools damaged in Kashmir

Date:

Jahangeer Ganaie

Srinagar, May 01 : Following incessant rains over the past few days, numerous roads, bridges and structures across Kashmir have suffered damage.

According to an official statement provided to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), floods have wreaked havoc on key infrastructure assets in various districts.

Among the affected structures are the Shumriyal Bridge, Khumryal Bridge (side walls), Shatmuqam Bridge, Sohipora-Hayhama Bridge, Farkyan Bridge, two RDD buildings in Kupwara, and the AD Handicrafts office building. The Shumryal-Gundajhanger road has been severed due to scouring and a breach in the Doban Kachama dam.

The adverse weather conditions have also caused damage in Uri, Baramulla and Pulwama. In Uri, several structures and roads, including Baramulla-Babareshi and Pakhwara-Tangmulla at Rafiabad, have been affected. Pulwama has witnessed partial damage to two roads and one orchard due to landslides, along with reports of a damaged boundary wall at a school. Flood spill channels at various locations have also been compromised.

Waterlogging has emerged as a major issue across several districts, affecting schools, offices and roads. Moreover, breaches in embankments at various points have resulted in water entering residential structures, compounding the challenges faced by people.

Sajad Ahmad Naqeeb, Chief Engineer of R&B Kashmir, said there have been minor damages to bridges in Kupwara, with no major incidents reported elsewhere.

He, however, said that urbanisation, unchecked encroachment and the flow of sewage have led to the pollution of the Jhelum River and other water bodies.

Jhelum, which originates from Veerinag in south Kashmir and traverses through Srinagar before entering into Wular Lake in north Kashmir is an important source of irrigation, drinking water and hydropower in the valley. It is now increasingly contaminated due to the unchecked dumping of garbage, plastic and sewage, officials said.

An official of the Pollution Control Board told KNO that urbanisation and encroachment of the banks of Jhelum have led to tonnes of solid and liquid waste from home toilets into the water body. This not only deteriorates the water quality but also adversely impacts the aquatic life of the river, he lamented.

Another official said that slaughterhouse owners located on the banks of Jhelum are also draining the waste of slaughtered animals into it. “We do not have any holistic sewerage project even in Srinagar,” he said.

Soon after the 2014 floods, the Flood Management Plan was announced which was divided into two phases. Phase 1 was funded under the Prime Minister’s Development Package with a budget of Rs 399 crore, which included spot dredging as per requirement to increase the capacity of river Jhelum to minimise the damage if there were floods again.

Soon after the 2014 floods, the Government of India constituted a committee to suggest measures to prevent such calamities in the future. The committee in its report had recommended several long-term measures including additional supplementary flood spill channel, creation of storage facilities on tributaries of Jhelum, flood plain zoning and enhancing capacity of Wular Lake.

Officials said that with the completion of phase 1, the capacity of river Jhelum will be taken to 60,000 cusecs, which has already been taken to 40,000. “The deadline to complete Phase 2 is three years and hopefully, it will be completed on time,” he said.

The main work in Phase 2 will be the flood spill channel for re-sectioning so that if there will be more water coming, then it will go through these channels, they said, adding that part of it is to work on Hokarsar.

An official said that the resectioning of the flood spill channel, involving widening from 20 to 80 metres with a constant slope from Padshahi Bagh to Wullar, is currently underway, with an estimated cost of Rs 239 crore. This is aimed at enhancing the channel’s capacity to mitigate flood risks effectively, he said, adding that efforts at Hokarsar are focused on maintaining wetlands to ensure an uninterrupted habitat for migratory birds, constituting a vital aspect of Phase 2 of the flood mitigation plan.

Regarding infrastructure improvements at Wular Lake, the official said that while the gate width is currently 80 metres, the channel width is only 30 metres, necessitating widening to 80 metres to optimise water flow.

Meanwhile, various works on 21 major tributaries of the Jhelum have already commenced, including crate projection and other necessary measures.

A senior official from the Irrigation & Flood Control Department said the Jhelum River’s capacity needs to be enhanced to manage potential floods effectively. He said that Phase 2 of the flood management plan is ongoing, with a primary focus on augmenting the capacity of the Jhelum’s tributaries and critical areas. Successful completion of both phases is expected to significantly mitigate flood-related damages in the Kashmir region, he added.

“The completion of Phase 2 will increase the Jhelum River’s capacity to 60,000 cusecs, having already reached 40,000 cusecs in Phase 1,” he stated. However, this capacity will still not suffice to manage the massive volume of water that breached the Jhelum at multiple locations during the devastating 2014 floods.

“If the Jhelum’s capacity remains at 60,000 cusecs, it will not be sufficient to prevent embankment breaches in the event of a 2014-like flood. Although the damages may not be as severe as in 2014 when the Jhelum’s capacity was around 30,000 cusecs,” the engineer, who works on the Flood Management Plan, explained.

He said that there is a need to increase the capacity of river Jhelum to 120,000 cusecs for effective flood management—(KNO)

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