J&K floods: Jhelum River - from revered to being feared

It has been revered as the lifeline of Kashmir Valley, but River Jehlum has in the last fortnight revealed its most horrific face, unseen by generations, as it ravaged a large part of Srinagar city.

Srinagar: It has been revered as the lifeline of Kashmir Valley, but River Jehlum has in the last fortnight revealed its most horrific face, unseen by generations, as it ravaged a large part of Srinagar city.

Experts feel that encroachment of water bodies, unplanned urban development and failure to put in place effective flood control measures during all these years are to be blamed for the huge impact of the calamity.

Thousands of Kashmiri families depend on Jehlum, which originates from a natural spring in South Kashmir's Verinag town, for their livelihood. The Pandit community worships its as the "mother river" and it was once considered the calmest river in the state.

"The livelihoods of many Kashmiris directly or indirectly depend on this river. This river provides them with fish that they sell to sustain their families. Sand extraction from the river bed is a huge business here," said Javid Ahmed an environmentalist.

Not a single person in Kashmir remembers having seen this fiery face of the river in their lifetime. The recorded history of Kashmir too shows that a similar deluge had hit the valley more than a century ago.

"The rulers of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir were farsighted as they constructed flood channels to divert the water in case of a flood. The city was planned in a way to make sure that there was least possible damage in case of extreme flooding," said Murtaza Ahmed, a retired professor of history who now lives in Bagat Barzullah area.

Experts in Kashmir hold the unplanned urban development in and around the Srinagar city responsible for the floods last weeks flood.

They say that people have encroached upon the wetlands and water bodies, which could otherwise have reduced the impact such a flood.

"Had there been no encroachments on the wetlands and the water bodies, the impact of the flood would have been minimum, these water bodies were supposed to reduce the impact of floods," said Professor Murtaza.

The residents here say that the river which was once being worshipped as the "life giver" has today turned into "life taker" and speaking about it, brings fear.

Experts say that they had warned the administration several times to take precautionary measures towards flood control, but their advices were ignored.

"Our former Union minister for water resources is from Kashmir and he knew that we were sitting on a time bomb, but he too failed to act," said Professor Murtaza.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that a comprehensive action plan for flood control in Kashmir was pending with the central government.

"A Rs 2200-crore flood management plan has already been lying with the government and we still await its approval," Omar said.  

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