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J&K floods: Development planning, drainage system blamed

Environmental think tank the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Wednesday blamed the flood crisis on badly planned development, mismanagement of the drainage system and an abject lack of disaster preparedness.

Its director-general Sunita Narain said here the sudden massive rainfall event over Srinagar fit in to the growing trend of extreme weather events hitting India, as predicted by scientists studying impacts of global warming.

“In the last 10 years, several extreme rainfall events have rocked the country, and this is the latest calamity in that series,” said Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director-general. He recounted the unprecedented rainfall of 2005 in Mumbai, Leh cloudburst of 2010 and the floods in 2013 in Uttarakhand, noting that each time the government had only referred to the events as unprecedented but failed to analyse the causes behind the trend of such increasing episodes.

Narain said: “In the last 100 years, more than 50 per cent of the lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum river have been taken over in a similar manner, vastly reducing the river’s drainage capacity. Naturally, these areas have suffered the most.”

The group showed state government satellite data highlighting how construction and built-up area had eaten the downstream man-made drainage systems of Srinagar leaving little room for the wetland network to soak in and expunge excess waters.

Noting that at many places in Jammu & Kashmir, it had rained more than 200 mm in 24 hours, an unprecedented 400 per cent excess deluge over the monthly average, the group castigated the government for not preparing enough to fight changing patterns of monsoon due to climate change.

“Only if we accept that climate change is a reality for India and put our scientists to understand its impacts on the monsoon better, we can plan our disaster management to fit the changing requirements. We have flood forecasting systems in place where traditionally floods occur such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but not in places such as J&K,” said Narain.

The northern Himalayan state did not have a flood forecasting system, which led to the state and Centre passing the buck about who should have been pro-active in getting one set up. Setting up the system falls under the purview of the Central Water Commission.

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