With the monsoons approaching, Srinagar is caught in a precarious situation to prevent a repeat of the September 2014 floods this year.
It needs permission from the Supreme Court (SC) to clean the Hokersar wetland, a notified protected area 16 km north of Srinagar, in the Jhelum basin and develop a flood channel to ensure that excess water from the river is drained into the wetland.
Hokersar was traditionally a flood detention basin but since there has been no desilting in the recent years, it could become a major cause of flooding in the area as it had during the 2014 floods.
The wetland needs a quick removal of excess deposit in its bed and for that, the government has sought the SC’s permission since Hokersar was declared a protected area in 1978.
The SC has disallowed any activity in national parks and sanctuaries without its approval even after a go-ahead from the environment ministry.
In the case of the Hokersar wetland, the Union environment ministry has already cleared this roadblock.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has sought permission from the SC to desilt the wetland which is home to about six lakh residents. Migratory birds of at least 21 species also flock to Hokersar.
The state government has pleaded before the court that the proposed channel will decrease the sedimentation load and help manage floods efficiently without causing devastation to Srinagar as observed in 2014.
The state government proposal will also revive the wetland and the drainage channel will ensure “unobstructed” release of water into the Wular Lake.
“If the proposed channel is not undertaken at present, the same is likely to result in enormous problems in the near future, besides reducing the detention capacity of Hokersar wetland further which has shrunken already from 29,120 acre feet to 22,669 acre feet,” said the state government’s application for permission filed in the SC.
Experts, however, say there is not much time as the desilting work and construction of the channel will have to start before the monsoons.