Monthly Archives: May 2016

Jhelum floods and Dredging in Kashmir


The Institution of Engineers (India), J&K State Center

Seminar on Jhelum Dredging Project and Floods of Sept-14 in Kashmir on 7th May, 2016

Jhelum floods and Dredging in Kashmir


                                                                              Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili FIE

                                                                                    (Former Chief Engineer)


The parent stream of the river Jhelum has its source in a noble spring (Verinag) of deep blue water at the bottom of a spur in the Pir Panjal, just below the Jawahar Tunnel connecting the main highway, wherefrom the beautiful octagonal spring is seen like an emerald set in green pines. An important source of river Jhelum is the lake Sheshnag at the head of Liddar tributary. The river Jhelum is a tributary river par excellence. It is joined by Veshav, Rambiara, Romshi, Sukhnag, Dudganga, Tel-bal Nalla flowing into the Dal Lake and thence via Tsunti Khul and also through Brari Numbal besides the Sind through Anchar Lake (now turned swamp). The Dal Lake forms the flood lung of the Jhelum, taking in reverse flows from Jhelum when it floods. The flood spill channel was constructed in the year 1904 to relieve the river of the strain while it passes through the city of Srinagar. The spill channel was designed to take one third of the total flow of the river. The Jhelum flows in loops over river plains apparently quite leveled and gentle slopes. Anantnag is 94 meters higher than Srinagar and Sopore is 34 meters lower than Srinagar. The Jhelum drains off the whole valley of Kashmir catering the whole catchment area and is the most westerly of the five rivers of Punjab.

The Wular is the largest fresh water lake in India, 16 Kms. long and 7.6 Kms wide. The river Jhelum enters it from the Southeast and leaves it to the west near Sopore, which is a typical delta formed by the silt. Small streams like Habuja, Anrah, Erin, Pohru, and Madhumati at Bandipur flow into the lake. The river Jhelum becomes shallow and sand banks appear in the river bed obstructing navigation. It is only in spring (May-July) that rainfall causes the snow to melt at higher elevations on the surrounding mountains and cause floods. The river Jhelum has been described as both a blessing and as a curse in floods.

Beyond Baramgul at Baramulla where the river is hardly 30 meters wide and 3 meters deep flowing between steep mountains, the Jhelum enters a narrow gorge through which it flows a distance of 128 kms. till it reaches Muzaffarabad (Domel) to join the river Kishen Ganga, which drains the northern rim of the Kashmir basin in Telal, Gurez and Sharda. At Uri the river changes its course and flows in through mountain ranges towards Muzaffarabad (1543 meters) with a fall of 1: 160.

The river Jhelum is a trough formed between the Great Himalayan range and the Pir Panjal range. Oval in shape, the diameter of the valley runs parallel to the general direction of the two ranges of about 230 Kms. The alluvium, with which the valley is filled, has a depth of 6000 ft. which according to geologists gave shape to a unique geometric character in the form of lacustrine and fluvatile karewas bordering the margins of the mountains surrounding the valley. The river Jhelum passes through Muzaffarabad and forms one of the five tributaries of Indus River in Punjab Pakistan.

The river banks on the right side are closer as compared to ones at the left side, with the Khadanyar Mountain. A differential elevation of 24 meters from Khanabal to Khadanyar is recorded. A varying river-bed slope is assumed over the whole length of the river between 1/8000 to 1/12000, thereby having a gentle slope across the length which over a period has changed due to siltation.


Kashmir Floods- a chronology.

Kashmiris have faced floods since the very beginning of life in valley. Over the years, many measures were adopted to confine floods, but it is unfortunate that the authorities never devised a serious strategy to safeguard the lives and property. The last deluge in Sept.-14 is one such instance that highlighted a lapse in state government’s preventive measures.

Authorities must plan to tackle natural calamities by learning from the successful models of other nations. If Netherlands can remain safe below the sea level, why can’t we protect our valley from the catastrophe that has been striking us every now and then?

But yes, the last floods have provided us an opportunity to rise to the occasion and give top priority—first, to rehabilitation of the flood victims; and next, to reform the Master Plan for floods on the advice of the expert consultants and adopt measures without loss of any time.

We should stay alarmed as ours is a ‘flooded’ history.

  • 4000 years of flood history say: these floods were caused due to rains. Only two major floods occurred due to earthquakes.
  • In 2014 BC, the era of Raja Sundar Sen (2083-2042 BC), earthquake struck in the night time; and old city of Sindmat Nagar sank underground. Water gushed forth from bottom and Wullar lake came into being. Rock fell at Khadanyar Baramulla. As a result, valley got drowned up to Bijbehara in south Kashmir. Boatmen would see the rooftops under water for a long time.
  • In the era of Raja Durlab Dron (617-635 AD) during 7th century AD, Jhelum breached its banks. It changed its direction at Nawpopra and entered the valley of Vital Marg and gave birth to Dal Lake.
  • During 8th century AD in the era of Lalitaditya (715-752 AD), incessant rains submerged the whole city including Raj Mahal, which was shifted to Letapora. Hundreds of houses were washed away by floods in Srinagar.
  • In the period Raja Avantiverman (872-900 AD) in 9th century AD, an earthquake struck valley. Rocks came close at Khadanyar. The entire area got drowned up to Bijbehara, causing famine. An ingenious scheme of throwing gold coins in the river bed at Khadanyar was devised during this period by Er. Suya. And thereby, divers cleared the way. This was the first ever attempt of manual dredging carried out after allowing gushing waters by breaching the several artificial dams created across the alignment of the river.
  • During 10th century AD in the era of Raja Parth Warma (923-934 AD), floods washed away houses in the city; and dead bodies floated in Jhelum. Paddy fields destroyed causing famine.
  • In the era of Raja Harash Dev (1103-1114 AD) during 12th century AD, floods damaged all crops causing famines. People bought food stuffs by the weight of gold.
  • In the reign of Sultan Shahab-ud-Din (1360-1378 AD) during 14th century AD, floods damaged 20,000 houses in Srinagar, Sonawari and other low-lying areas
  • During 16th century AD in the era of Ali Shah Chak (1570-1579 AD), whole valley got inundated. All agricultural land was submerged. Landslides took place. Hundreds of houses got damaged. And, famine continued for three years.
  • In the era of Ibrahim Khan (1678-1686 AD) during 17th century AD, a continuous rains for one month caused devastating floods. Houses were washed away which floated on water like boats with inmates weeping and wailing. All the bridges gave way. Agriculture land and cattle were washed away. This was known as Tughyan-i-behad—that is, floods without borders. The areas that escaped floods were shaken by earthquakes, killing hundreds of people. Thousands of houses collapsed.
  • During 18th century AD in the era of Nawazish Khan (1709-1710 AD), torrential rainfall and winds caused floods resulting in great damage to agriculture and buildings. After this, a devastating fire broke out in Mohalla Malchimar in Safakadal, which destroyed twenty adjacent Mohallas and 40,000 houses in them.
  • Again in the era of Afrasiab Khan (1746-1748 AD), rains caused floods. It damaged crops. River overflowed its banks. Thousands of houses got damaged in the city. People died of starvation. The dead bodies could not be handled; shrouds were rare. Dead bodies would be wrapped in grass and thrown into river, which contaminated the water. About one third population perished. Others fled valley; and the rest stayed back to face the famine.
  • In the era of Amir Khan (1771-1772 AD), floods hit the valley which also washed away his Diwan Khanaalong with plenty of agricultural land and all bridges. After the floods, Sher Garhi was rebuilt with strong walls and grand buildings.
  • During 19th century in the era of Shaikh Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din (in 1841 AD), Jhelum overflowed its banks due to incessant rains. There was a breach of Qazizad bund and water entered Srinagar. Maximum damage took place in Rainawari and Khanyar areas. All bridges from Fatehkadal to Sumbal were washed away.
  • In the era of Maharaja Partap Singh during 20th century AD, a continuous rainfall for 59 hours on July 24, 1903, resulted in overflowing of Jhelum. All the low lying areas of the city were flooded. People saved their lives by rushing to higher areas. Houses and cattle got washed away. Many people died because of drowning.
  • In 1959 AD in the era of Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, flood known as FORD damaged crops and property.
  • Now in recent September 2014 floods, everybody witnessed death very closely; their property perished before their very eyes. Within seven months this has been followed by another flood in March 2015 giving sleepless nights to many besides causing landslides.

Here allow me to quote views expressed by an expert on dredging (Mechanical Engineer) on the floods of Sept. 14, I quote:-

“Scars of September 2014 are still fresh, “we are yet to wake up to the mess that Kashmir has faced since 879 AD, when Khadanyar Mountains slipped and choked the outfall channel leading to massive blockage. Other major recorded floods are in the years 1841 followed by one on the July 18, 1893. “Mother of floods” was recorded on July 23, 1903, which by far had a major impact on the ecology and environment of Kashmir. 1948, 1950, 1957, July 1959 and 1992 have also caused extensive damage, making us to ponder on environmental impact and assessment studies,” (Ref: Sir Walter Roper, Valley of Kashmir).

Actions taken in past

“Initiating corrective measures, successive governments tried to explore options which bore results in 1960, through supply of Ellicott dredger purchased by Port of Vishakhapatnam. The Mechanical CS dredgers were utilized for dredging of outflow channel from Ningli to Sheeri, however, abandoned in 1986 due to lack of support. In 90’s dredging from Janbazpora to Johama was commenced resulting in minimal desired volumetric efficiency of the basin. In April 2012, dredging was restarted from Ningli to Gantamula under the previous regime, which didn’t exhibit any impressive volumetric impact as levels of Jhelum sore during the moderate June 2015 rainfall, refuting the government’s claim of dredging 1.4 million cubic meters of silt.”

“The September floods have proven beyond doubt the callous attitude of authorities in understanding the problems prior to augmenting solutions. On a closer look at Google images of the river path between March 18, 2010 and November 22, 2014, one apprehends a major flood in the near future if corrective actions are not initiated on a war footing. Silt deposition can be seen all along the path from Khanabal, Sangam to Srinagar and in the event of an angry Jhelum. Pampore area including most of Srinagar’s Municipal areas are under immense threat as silt will be easily transported along the river bed slope due to high water velocity. The change in the water color denotes the excessive silt observed with expansion in the river width which rings alarming bells.”

Recent tender for dredging of Jhelum

“I am amused to read the tender documents: Tender notice no 17 of 2015-16 where to my knowledge several techno commercial errors have been committed in the tender stage. I have the following observations:

         Dredger types: Trailer Suction Dredgers ( TSHD) can carry only fine silt or gravel but surely cannot handle the slurry silt due to high viscosity unless added with sand, they are mostly coastal built and cannot be transported to J&K unless someone has a custom built dredger which can be assembled on site. In my opinion the excavator barges could be a better option as silt, rocks, and sand could be dredged in combination with the CSD.

         I am utterly disappointed by the tender requirements that do not mention any technical bid submittal along with the commercial bid based on which the bidder will be approved. It more or less shows IFC is unaware of the procedures in dredging which require submittal of a detailed method statement, equipment list and qualified manpower to ensure the contractor is not experimenting while people suffer.

         Method of calculation of the dredged material pre-dredge and post-dredge is unclear. I wonder if the quantity of volume 10.7 Lakh CM is already exaggerated in the absence of a bathymetric survey.

         Duration: I believe the IFC Department has still not woken up and are probably not aware of equipment’s and their capacities. They still believe dredging about 150 cum/day would be a great challenge which can be monitored by their Chief Engineer. Discharge distance of over 300 and 3000 m and its implications on discharge output does not mean much of a difference to the IFC and the technical consultant appointed for the project, which proves beyond doubt they are all first timers and in experiment mode.

         Silt transfer: Page 31 of the tender document describes siltation prevention using various “Mickey Mouse Techniques”. I hope the consultant knows how a silt curtain is used for silt retention.

         Priority of documents on Page 61, it amuses me to see the document precedence which is neither as per FIDIC Green or Red book. I can assure the government and general masses that the contractor will have his say in the project and we will again have a blame game plan in place.” (The results are vivid within the first month only, when the snag in the deployed dredge could not be removed by the company since last over a month and the machine is lying idle since then. The firm should have been bound by a severe penalty for every hour of delay as it involves risk of life of people in view of imminent floods at any time.)

What needs to be done?

“I hate to agree that it is an uphill task to get the project executed on war footing keeping various negative factors including unpredictable weather conditions, governmental bottlenecks, level of expertise in managing and supervising such critical projects, availability of competent manpower, equipment resource and above all a positive cash flow to finance the project.”

“In order to start the work the following actions could be considered by the authorities:

         Soil investigation along with a detailed bathymetric survey needs to be conducted to ascertain the water absorption capacity type of soil and depths of the river bed at various locations with Geo coordinates.

         A comprehensive plan for segment dredging needs to be prioritized in order to ensure the right combination of marine equipment at the right location as the present operating dredgers are below capacity and exhibit low efficiency as has been proved by their poor performance over the years of operation. The dredger capacities shall further reduce due to presence of gravel, rocks, boulders in the silt and above all inexperienced operations staff which reduces the output.

         The outflow channels in the line of Wullar intake need to be dredged to create laminar flow to the lake. Long boom excavators on spud barges would be the most appropriate solution.

         Expansion areas with higher depths need to be created every 30-50 Kms to create temporary retention basins thereby increasing the volumetric capacity of the river. Revetments and scour protection on the left and the right of the river bed would arrest any erosion. Hence protect the banks in case of a heavy downpour. Underwater geo textile tubes would also be a quick and commercially economical solution.

         Floods spill channels controlling Srinagar city need to be excavated/dredged (where applicable) by at least 5 meters in the vertical plane and 10 meters in the horizontal plane on both sides, which could accommodate additional 20–25 percent of the overflow.

         The wetlands and the natural flow routes from the Dal to Aanchar and Mansbal need to be attended on priority as siltation in Dal has reduced the intake capacity by more than 60 percent.

         The authorities having established a control room are not aware of the fury of floods and the velocity of water when the depth of river bed is minimized due to silt transfer. I have pointed out several times in the past that sand bags can be an option only at laminar locations, with flood fury in serpent profile of Jhelum these sand bags can easily flow and can block the flow and decrease the level of the river bed. The only possible option would be to put interwoven precast panels to allow greater bonding due to weight while protecting the river bunds.

I am of the opinion, that apart from the removal of encroachments and rehabilitation of the existing dwellers, the subject requires in depth and strong technical background that can guide the government towards a win-win situation.”

In order to implement, I suggest the government to:

         “Make single regulatory body for wetlands, waterways and lakes for effective control and co-ordination.

         Constitute an expert panel of people with a minimum 10 years’ experience of dredging and marine projects. First timers as contractors/consultants can be as disastrous as the floods themselves.

         Fix timeframe for each segment dredging controlled and monitored by the expert team based on Primavera software. The total volumes for dredging should be monitored based on available equipment rather than the fancies of the authorities who have no feelings for general masses.

   Explore options for in house equipment design, fabrication, modification and commissioning for dredging and other marine works.

      Set up a training institute for imparting technical training for future dredging and marine projects.

Lot can be achieved with the cooperation of government and society subject to a set out guideline which is managed by professionally competent members rather than the keypad commandoes of social media.” Enquote.


A write up of mine appeared in GK dated October,13, 2014, “Sequel to Flood protection in the vale of Kashmir”, where I had also quoted the article in the vale of Kashmir by –Joseph Thomas/comments. In this photographs and videos of the types of proposed dredgers have been shown in action.

Regarding sediment load, I may quote another expert engineer on the subject:

“Sediment built up in Jhelum and Wular post 2014 floods have reduced the hydraulic regime flow carrying capacity…even a short spells of normal rains can thus result in flash floods above flood danger levels and the temporary restored embankments can give away to inundate areas..

The propositions of dredging project needs to be uploaded online with progress updated frequently..To my knowledge the sediment transport data for Jhelum if observed has not been so far used to prepare a sediment transport model that could form the basis of formulating a holistic dredging project both for “maintenance dredging” and “contingent dredging” things need to be transparent…

Normal spells of spring rains have thus become cause of concern for people and rightly so.” unquote.


We are told that dredging of Jhelum river is going to increase the carrying capacity of river from 35,000 to 45,000 cusecs and that of FS Channel from 5,000 to 10,000 cusecs, thereby still leaving a shortfall of 65,000 cusecs against the maximum recorded flood discharge of 1,20,000 cusecs in September, 14. Thus the need for the construction of a parallel river persists to avoid a future catastrophe. Unfortunately this project is reported to have been refused to be financed by the Central Government.