Kashmir floods: On the edge, Srinagar better prepared after the harsh lessons of 2014

  • Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Mar 31, 2015 10:20 IST

After a nightlong vigil, people in Srinagar are busy strengthening with sandbags a breach in a river embankment in Bemina colony, the first to witness major inundation in this year’s flooding.

As heavy rains battered the Himalayan state, a walk from vulnerable points of Bemina to Shivpora, a more than 10-km stretch next to the river Jhelum, shows residents of Srinagar are better prepared to handle any emergency this year than they were during last September’s devastating floods.

People in the city have formed crisis groups to help those living in vulnerable areas move to higher ground while community centres have stocked up on food and medicine after the Jhelum crossed the danger mark in a reminder of last September when the worst flooding in a century left over 300 dead and millions displaced.

Parts of Rajbagh and Jawahar Nagar, which bore the brunt of last year’s flooding, look like a ghost town with many leaving their homes after landslides and flash floods triggered by incessant rains over two days killed six people and left 10 missing.

"We shifted patients in boats from Bemina. Mosques will regulate boats and rescue operation for better coordination," said Altaf Ahmad, a Bemina resident.

People are taking no chances after the worst floods in a century last year caught the administration off guard, leading to intense criticism that authorities were too slow to respond to the disaster.

"We are well aware of food material required for those stranded or held up in community centres. We are preparing to meet the eventuality," said Arif Khan, a resident of Galwanpora, which has a spill channel flowing in the backyard.

Apart from better preparation on the ground, people are also mobilising in the virtual world through social networking groups.

Several WhatsApp groups connected people with authorities directly for better coordination and flow of information on the weather.

"From receding water levels to swelling rivers, we collect information online. The idea of running active social groups online is to have proper pooling of information and planning to meet any eventuality," said Peer GN Suhail, head of Srinagar-based think-tank Centre for Research and Development Policy.

Experts said the PDP-BJP government had been more prompt in organising rescue efforts than the National Conference regime last year –widely criticised for being sluggish – but alleged the parties had focussed on politics while cobbling together a coalition for two months instead of focussing on flood infrastructure.

"Some de-silting was done here and there but never on the scale it deserved. Unfortunately, this government got embroiled in frivolous politics," said Shakil Romshoo of Kashmir University.

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