Tag Archives: Kashmir Floods September 2014

Short Term / Long Term Measures Needed to prevent Devastation by Floods

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The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (INC)

27th July, 2015, Venue : SKICC Srgr.

Short Term / Long Term Measures Needed to prevent Devastation by Floods

By Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili (Retd. Chief Engineer)

The media report after the September floods stated that “The Jammu and Kashmir government said the State suffered losses of Rs 1 trillion in the floods and 12.5 lakh families were affected.

According to preliminary estimates, the housing sector suffered losses over Rs 30,000 crore while business sector incurred losses worth over Rs 70,000 crores,” J&K Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday said while addressing a press conference here.

Maintaining that State had never witnessed such a disaster before, he said this (flood) was not a disaster of national but international ramifications. “The State has never recorded such flood level in the past”.

He said as per the initial assessment reports on the damages to the private property, a total of 3,53,864 structures have been damaged. “83,044 pucca houses have been fully damaged and 96,089 partially. Similarly, 21,162 kachha houses were fully damaged and 54,264 partially damaged besides 99,305 huts, cowsheds, were also damaged”.

Mr.Khanday said 12.5 Lakh families were affected by flood across the State.

“281 lives have been lost due to floods in the State. 196 people lost their lives in Jammu province and 85 in Kashmir,” he said adding 29 persons are still missing.

Many areas in Srinagar including posh localities of Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar and Indira Nagar are still under water and flood water has not been drained out completely in last 22 days.

Mr.Khanday said 5,642 villages were affected by the flood across the State with 2,489 in Kashmir and 3,153 in Jammu division. “At least 800 villages remained submerged for over two weeks”.

Referring to the damage caused to roads and bridges, Chief Secretary said, “Over 550 bridges/culverts were damaged. Besides, 6,000 km road network was also damaged by the flood water”.

On disposal of carcasses of livestock, he said, “Over 1500 carcasses have been removed from Srinagar only and scientifically disposed off. Besides, hundreds of tons of garbage is being removed from the city on daily basis”.

Asked whether there was any outbreak of any disease in the flood-hit areas,” Mr. Khanday said, “No outbreak of any disease has been reported from anywhere in the State.”

“The situation is being constantly monitored and 7 lakh children in the age group of 6 months to 15 years have been vaccinated”

  1. Desilting of Jhelum yet to take off (Kashmir Monitor- 29 the April 2015)

Even if a slight rainfall causes the water level to cross the danger mark in Jhelum and revives the dreaded memory of September deluge in public psyche, the Irrigation and Flood Control department is yet to start the “much needed” dredging of the river to increase its carrying capacity, thanks to the lack of approval from the union government.

Official sources told The Kashmir Monitor the IFC department has already sent the proposal to de-silt Jhelum and was expecting to receive the final approval for work andFUNDSearlier this month but the Ministry of Water Affairs has failed to take any decision so far.
“We are awaiting the central ministry approval to start the machine dredging of river. The technical advisory committee of Ministry of Water Affairs could not take a decision on the 7th of the month. They will fix a new date and as soon as we receive the approval we will start the work. They have almost approved it but the final approval andFUNDS are awaited,” Chief Engineer, IFC Javed Jaffar said adding it was a top priority.

“Manual dredging of the river has already begun in some places like Anantnag, Bijbehara but that is possible only when the water level in Jhelum is less. We are hopeful the government would soon approve the proposal of full-fledged dredging of the river so we can start the de-siltation using machines,” Jaffar said.

A report prepared by the department of Environment and Remote Sensing in the aftermath of September 2014 floods had recommended immediate de- siltation programme both for river Jhelum and its tributaries. Officials say after de-siltation, the main Jhelum river can cater to 45,000 cusecs from current 25000-30000 cusecs.

The government is already mulling to construct a new flood channel from Dogripora to Wullar to carry the surplus flood discharge of Jhelum that is expected to cost over Rs 18,000 crore. The official report in the aftermath of September floods had also recommended de-siltation of wetlands across Kashmir.

Experts believe de-siltation in the form of sand mining was the main reason that north Kashmir districts remained unaffected during the September foods. The carrying capacity of outfall channel of River Jhelum from Wullar to Khadinyar Baramulla has been increased by way of excavating 4,00,000 cubic metres of sand since April 2012, according to official documents.

Kashmir again faced prospect of floods last month as incessant rainfall increased the water level in Jhelum causing it to cross the danger mark. The government is yet to remove the silt from Jhelum that had deposited in Jhelum during September floods.

It is now July 2015, eleven months have elapsed and the proposed action to face the imminent floods is yet to begin. We have witnessed that most of the Govt. works are taken in hand in anticipation of allotment of funds in case of emergency, besides also issuing short term tenders or even work orders. An emergency work that endangers lives and property of a large section of people is delayed for unknown reasons. With this state of affairs, people are losing faith in the present set up as justice delayed is justice denied. Same is the case with the promised timely distribution of relief to the flood victims who continue to suffer. It was reported that some scanty relief cheques were distributed among some persons which reminds us about the couplet:

Samandar se mile pyase ko shabnam; khudaya ye bakhili hay ki razaqi.

Besides the much hyped promised aid is yet to come even after 11 months, that reminds us of the promised American seventh fleet to help Pakistan in Bangladesh crises, that never came.

  1. Reconstruction of the Valley

Reconstruction of the flood-prone devastated city areas – these suggestions were presented by me in a seminar on November 9, 2014 organized by Sakhawat Center at Lala Rukh Hotel Srinagar.

Now that the centuries’ worst flood has receded, people shall be rebuilding their damaged houses in their respective sites. Some important points need to be considered to prevent recurrence of such an eventuality in future.

  • There is no guarantee that floods of even worse magnitude may not visit the valley any time again. The global climate change is one of the major factors of this erratic behavior of weather. With the saturated subsoil combined with melting snows, a few hours of frequent torrential rains raises alarm and the affected people become restless with the apprehension of repetition of the last September devastating floods. With the flood absorption basins like Bemina, converted to housing colonies after resorting to an earth fill of over 7 feet and with the choked river cross-section by its beautification measures combined with construction of new bridges in close vicinity, water is bound to overflow its banks. Unfortunately the technical opinion is generally overrlued by a non-technical bureaucrat upheld by a Minister resulting into the catastrophe.
  • Government seems to be contemplating to provide a parallel spill channel on the upstream side of the existing one, but that may be a long drawn affair as it shall involve huge and time consuming land compensation etc. Besides this channel may also get defunct with the passage of time like the present FS channel, for want of its maintenance.
  • The other ideal solution would have been to plan a new city on higher contours along foot-hills from Ganderbal to Harwan, Pandrethan, Khunmoh to Rajpora and on Karewas along southern foot-hills ensuring safety from river floods, proper drainage and fresh mountain breeze but again that may be a herculean task.
  • Immediately the weak spots of the embankments need to be strengthened particularly at curve points, where flood waters hit most. Raising of RCC protection walls need to be considered at such spots.
  • Instead of raising the levels of embankments, time bound dredging and de-silting of the river bed, FS Channel and flood absorption basins need to be resorted to without any loss of time and the process should continue throughout the year as siltation is a regular feature during the floods and in normal flows as well. For this purpose sufficient number of suitable dredgers need to be procured and deployed at pre determined spots to ensure dredging of river from Khannabal to Khadanyar and that of FS Channel besides other wetlands/other water bodies. This process could have been started eleven months back, but the authorities seem to be awaiting another disaster before they will wake up to the situation.
  • Forestation of the catchment area with construction of check dams needs to be taken up in a planned manner.
  • People in present distress cannot wait for the long term measures of flood protection and they will soon resort to the reconstruction of their collapsed/damaged houses.
  • /SMC must come up with the new building norms that are required in the flood prone areas to ensure the safety of lives of the inhabitants.
  • Basement floors could be raised on RCC columns with ceiling level higher than the HFL, leaving the space for car parking etc. In fact such norms already provided for shopping complexes have been violated causing parking problems in the city center. SMC must implement these norms strictly.
  • Life jackets and inflated rubber boats should be stocked by all the house-holds falling in the flood prone area. Young boys/girls need to be taught swimming to face any eventuality.
  • Safe foundations need to be designed as per BIS specifications with the approval /check of SMC. In fact I found a ten story structure was stalled by Muncipal Authorities at plinth level in Abu Dhabi, the reason being provision of lesser steel than the approved/designed one.
  • Due to land hunger possibility of vertical expansion of the city as already advocated by me in GK write ups, be considered seriously to tackle the future housing needs in view of multiplying population besides relocating the families of flood hit/prone areas.
  • The partially damaged structures of the flooded area need to be inspected by an expert team to suggest measures for their retrofitting.
  • Dewatering stations need to be lifted higher than the HFL of 100 year flood for making these functional during crisis.
  • The plinths of all Govt. buildings/establishments in the flood prone areas need to be raised higher than the HFL. The basement floors could be used for car parking etc.
  • Flood plain zoning is useful in reducing the damage caused by drainage congestion particularly in urban area where on grounds of economy and other considerations urban drainage may not be designed for the worst possible conditions and presupposes some damage during storms whose magnitude exceeds that for which the drainage system is designed.
  • The steps involved in implementation of flood plain zoning measures could be as:
  1. Demarcation of areas liable to floods.
  2. Preparation of detailed contour plans of such areas to a large scale (preferably 1:5000) showing contours at interval of 0’3 to 0.5 meters.
  3. Fixation of reference river gauges and determination of areas likely to be inundated for different water levels and magnitudes of floods.
  4. Demarcation of areas liable to flooding by floods of different frequencies like once in two years, five, ten, twenty, fifty and hundred years. Similarly areas likely to be affected on account of accumulated rainfall like 5, 10, 25, and 50 years.
  5. Delineation of the types of which the flood plains can be put to in the light of© and (d) above with indication of safeguards to be ensured.

In the existing developed areas possibilities of protecting /relocation/exchanging the sites of vital installations like electricity substations/powerhouses, telephone exchanges etc. should be seriously examined so that these are always safe from possible flood damage. Similarly the pump stations of tube wells for drinking water supply should be raised above the HFL corresponding a 100 year flood.

Similarly possibility of removing buildings/structures obstructing existing natural drainage should be seriously considered. In any case unplanned growth shall be restricted so that no constructions obstructing natural drainage resulting in increased flood is allowed. In future the following regulations may be stipulated:

  1. Plinth levels of all buildings should be nearly 0.75 to one meter above the drainage/submersion levels.
  2. In the areas liable to floods all the buildings a stairway should invariably be provided to the roofs/attic floors so that temporary shelter can be taken there. The roof levels of the single story buildings and the first floor level in double story buildings should be above flood level of 1 to 100 frequency so that the human lives and the movable property can take temporary shelter there when necessary during the floods.

In the past CWC prepared guidelines in 1873-74 for flood plain zoning which were approved by Central Flood Control Board. CWC also prepared a model draft and circulated it in the Ministry of Irrigation in 1975, to all the states for enacting legislature. However the response from states except Manipur has not been encouraging. Manipur enacted a legislation in 1978 which came into force in 1985.

Flood proofing measures, help greatly in the mitigation of distress and provide immediate relief to the population in flood prone areas. It is essentially a combination of structural change and emergency action, not involving any evacuation. The technique adopted consists of providing raised platforms for flood shelter for men and cattle and raising the public utility installation above flood levels.

In case of urban areas, certain measures that can be put into action as soon as a flood warning in received involve:

Installation of removable covers such as steel or aluminium bulk heads over doors and windows or other openings keeping stone counters on wheels, closing of sewer well, anchoring machinery, covering machinery with plastic sheet, seepage control etc.

Flood proofing also tends to encourage persistent human occupation of flood plains.

Out of the non-structural measures “flood forecasting and warning” is considered as one of the most important, reliable and cost effective methods. CWC organizes flood forecasting at 157 stations in the country, of which 132 are for water stage forecast and 25 for inflow forecast for certain major reservoirs. The Flood Meteorological Offices (FMO) also provide information regarding general meteorological situation, rainfall of last 24 hours for different regions and range of quantitative precipitation forecasts for various river basins to the respective flood forecasting centers of CWC. All the data is simultaneously transmitted to the circle headquarters supervising forecasting works for overall security, monitoring, analysis and compilation. The final forecasts are then transmitted to the administrative and engineering authorities of the state and other user agencies connected with flood protection and management work on telephone or by special messenger/ telegraph/ workers depending upon local factors like vulnerability of the area and availability of the communication facility etc.

The Master Plan 2000-2021 recommendations for river Jhelum were:

  • All Doongas and houseboats be shifted upstream of Padshahibagh or downstream of Chattabal. The tourist oriented houseboats could be shifted to Dal or Nigeen area.
  • Encroachments made on the banks of the river and all three Khuls- Kuta Khul, Soner Khul and Watel Khul be cleared en-masse.
  • Development of river fronts will involve clearance of some sites for development of parks.
  • To stop garbage dumping from Lal-Ded Hospital, incineration plant be installed there.
  • Wherever possible Agriculture department should level the disused brick kiln sites on either side of cement bridge and use the same for growing vegetables.
  • Shikara ghats be constructed at appropriate points, connected with pucca stairs to nearby roads.
  • Inland water transport project be implemented as per project report. This would help to keep the water in turbulence, besides reduce pressure on road traffic and also serve as a tourit attraction. The vessels could also be used to ferry people in flood emergencies.
  • While according permission for building construction on river and nallah fronts, no part of the building is protruded towards the river and nallah boundaries or over their embankments.
  • Problem of river discharge on river Jhelum be solved as it has assumed serious dimensions. Over the past fifty years, river Jhelum and spill channel has heavily silted up. It was understood that the flood control problem was being entrusted by I&FC Deptt. to some consultancy firm, hence the problem of siltation, dredging, gradient, velocity etc. shall be dealt with. Some suggestions included to redesign flood absorption basin from Kandizal to Padshahibagh saving the railway line and Mahjoor nagar area. Beds of river Jhelum and spill channel be deepened to increase the discharge capacity and ensure the minimum draft required for mechanized water transport. Gradient of spill channel be increased up to the permissible limits. Weir at Chattabal be redesigned. Navigational channel of the lock gate at weir site be desilted to make it functional.

However the Master Plan 2000-2021 has also got entangled in the cobweb of red-tape like other similar vital issues which ultimately land us into a chaotic situation like the recent one. The process of reviewing the Master Plan is still in progress even in 2015.

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  1. TWO DAY SEMINAR ON FLOODS OF 2014 HELD AT LALIT GRAND PALACE HOTEL IN NOVEMBER-14

A two day national Seminar on “Retrospective and Prospective of 2014 Kashmir Floods for Building Flood Resilient Kashmir” was held at Srinagar from 15-16 November 2014. The Seminar was organized jointly by the Department of Earth Sciences, Kashmir University and Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR). The 2014 flood was triggered by the complex interplay of atmospheric disturbances that brought widespread and extreme rains all across the state. The Jhelum waters, that used to be the provider of life and sustenance, suddenly became a monstrously destructive force against the human life and the infrastructure that cohabit its backyards since millennia.

Any future flood strategies for Jhelum Basin shall benefit from our learning from this horrendous experience and the threadbare deliberations held at the two days National Seminar. The September 2014 floods were unprecedented in the flood history of Kashmir and got everyone concerned about the consequences of another such disaster if it recurred. The immediate steps to be taken are to develop a strategy for mitigating floods in the state and that requires realization across the region at the local and the national level. The aim of this symposium was to conduct deliberations with the select group of relevant people who have the expertise to recommend and formulate a long term action plan for flood disaster management and mitigation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The experts from various central agencies (Central Water Commission-CWC, National Institute of Hydrology-NIH, National Geophysical Research Institute-NGRI, Central Groundwater Board-CGB, National Disaster Management Authority, NRSC/ISRO and National Green Tribunal), India Meteorological Department (IMD) and State Government agencies – Irrigation and Flood Control (IFC), Public Health Engineering (PHE), Rural Development, LAWDA, Srinagar Development Authority-SDA, IMPA, Agriculture Department, academia from Kashmir University, Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee-IIT, National Institute of Technology -NIT-Srinagar, Jammu University, and various segments of the civil society, including experienced professionals, attended the Seminar.

Short-term and Urgent Recommendations:

The following recommendations made at the Seminar need to be taken up on priority immediately and could be accomplished in the shortest possible time to reduce the risk to the public and to property in Jhelum Basin from flooding.

01) Knowledge driven all-inclusive multidisciplinary flood planning needs to be initiated on priority by engaging technocrats with relevant expertise to develop insights into flooding mechanisms in the Jhelum Basin building on comprehensive existing studies.

02) Strengthening the flood infrastructure in the Jhelum Basin to cope up with the probability of next extreme flooding event of the magnitude observed in 2014. This includes the preparation of an integrated DPR for the construction of the alternate flood channel from Dogripora to Wullar, increasing the carrying capacity of the main Jhelum, dredging of the existing flood channel, dredging of the wetlands like Hokersar, Narkara, Nowgam Jheel, and Wullar lake, and strengthening of breached and weak embankments the broad plan of which is before the CWC.

03) The management of the water bodies/lakes and wetlands in the Jhelum Basin needs to be brought under one regulatory authority for their integrated management, being a single catchment area served by the same watershed.

04) The government, with the help of academia/research institutes, must consider undertaking a scoping study to assess the probability of flooding in immediate future based on the understanding to be developed from the interactions of Ground Water, surface water and the glacier-melt in the Jhelum Basin.

05) Urgently operationalising the Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) for Jhelum and Chenab.

06) The State Government must initiate on priority (with the help of leading academic institutions), to undertake transparent flood-zonation and flood vulnerability assessments of people and places at village level so that the flood risk reduction is integrated with developmental planning at village level in all District Development Plans.

07) Government consider assigning proposals for bringing the technical ingenuity of the Irrigation & Flood Control in operationalising of FEWS, basin wide IFM and flood scenario mapping. The identified scientific studies on various aspects of flooding identified above are required to be undertaken on priority by involving Universities, consultants and institutes both national and international.

Urgent Long-term Recommendations:

The following recommendations made at the Seminar need to be initiated immediately and might take a few years to complete for flood risk reduction in the Jhelum Basin.

  • There is an urgent need to institutionalize the disaster management in the state by setting up of a vibrant and structured State Disaster Management Authority with a clear mandate to build the capacity of the state to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all types of hazards, the state is vulnerable to.
  • Strengthening of flood control infrastructure in 4 high gradient streams in the south Kashmir viz., Rambiara, Veshu, Romshi and Lidder, that enormously contribute to the discharge at Sangam using the available techniques, so that the flood peak and concentration time is appreciably delayed by staggering them in the watershed itself before their discharge into the Jhelum at Sangam.
  • Initiating a massive capacity building program for building public awareness and soliciting public involvement in flood risk reduction.
  • In order to arrest the siltation of the watercourses from the catchment, the participants recommended the massive reforestation of the Jhelum catchment under CAMPA, IWMP and other existing governmental schemes.
  • Structural and non-structural erosion control measures in the high gradient tributaries in the south Kashmir viz., Rambiara, Veshu, Romshi, Lidder, Bringi and Aripath.
  • Consolidation of the fragmented data and knowledge into a database so that it is available to everybody for use on understanding the hydrological and meteorological processes and phenomena in the state.
  • Strictly regulating mining of the riverbed keeping in view the river/channel morphology and other required hydrologic and geologic criteria.
  • The flood disaster preparedness at government and community levels need to be strengthened so that there is a well-rehearsed mechanism in place for quick response, despite all the adversities and limitations, to minimize the impacts of flooding on the people and property.
  • Revision of the existing land use policy and building codes is required and enforce strict implementation in order to minimize human and economic loss in the event of natural disaster.
  • Comprehensive community based Disaster risk reduction plans need to be prepared on priority.

Long-term Recommended Measures:

These long term recommended measures are essential for building the necessary flood control

Infrastructure in the basin so that in the eventuality of the next extreme flood event, the loss of life and property is reduced appreciably in the basin

  1. Construction of the alternate flood channel from Dogripora to Wullar
  2. Improving the drainage system in the urban areas of the Jhelum Basin including the restoration of natural drainages wherever possible
  3. The government needs to initiate programs aimed at conservation and restoration of the degraded wetlands in the Jhelum Basin to enhance their flood mitigation, in selected cases even sewage treatment functionality.. Bring city and town planning in the state into consonance with the flood and earthquake vulnerability.
  4. Structural and non-structural measures be initiated under the supervision of I&FC for erosion control in the central and north Kashmir part of the Jhelum basin.

Decks behind dykes

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Decks behind dykes

Er. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili

American author Mary Mapes Dodge’s story of the little boy who averted a flood disaster by sticking his finger in the dyke is famous all over the world. I had a poem about it (in our poetry book in FSC class) in SP College in 1957-59. The courage and sacrifice of the young boy who saved his country from drowning (least caring about his own life) mesmerises one.

A son of lockmaster, the 8-year-old nameless boy who lives near Haarlem one day discovers a leak in the dyke. The dyke is about to burst any moment. The little boy doesn’t think twice but sticks his finger in the hole. The water stops flowing. There he is, with nobody around to help the little hero. Evening comes and then night falls. It gets colder and colder. Apparently nobody in his family thinks of going to look for the little fellow. The result is that the child (numb with cold) is not found until morning (by the vicar).

Now his father and the authorities quickly take action and all ends well. By a curious whim of fate the anonymous hero erroneously became known under the name of Hans Brinker. It was not Mary Mapes Dodge who gave him that name, but unknown readers who couldn’t remember the names of the heroes in the book and got them mixed up. Its writer probably didn’t foresee that the story would become such a huge success. It was frequently reissued and adapted.

In comparison to this story we have this story by a columnist-cum-chartered accountant Abdul Majid Zargar about the drowning of Srinagar city that caused a loss of life besides made slush worth over a trillion rupees property. Post-floods, those responsible for floods are still at the helm of affairs.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah admitted the brazen role of MLA Chadoora, Javaid Mustafa Mir in obstructing the breach of Kandizal area. The failure at political and administrative level to take necessary steps to save Srinagar city from ravaging floods is an unpardonable crime for which heads should have rolled and guilty behind the bars by now.

Omar terms Kandizal as a flood basin “that’s a 25-year-old perspective”. The fact of the matter is that presently more than 200,000 people reside in that area. The chief minister wants us to believe that mischief was played only by PDP’s Mir and quite conveniently omits to mention the resistance offered by his own friend and MLA Amira Kadal to open up flood gates at Padshai Bagh.

He skips to mention the role of his education minister Akbar Lone who refused to allow diversion of water to Wullar Lake by reportedly using choicest abuses and invectives for officials pleading for prompt diversion as per the standard operating procedure.

It is true that Kandizal breach took place itself but the crucial question is when. It was on 4th of September that Mustafa Mir along with his few goons brandished a gun at Kandizal site & threatened to kill any body & everybody who dares to breach it. It was on 6th September that water finally overflew Kandizal.

Kashmir is a graveyard of many reputations, writes Zargar, It has demolished many a kings, rulers & dynasties.

The author is a retired engineer and can be mailed atshahishaharyar2@gmail.com