The Wild Water Rampage

Jammu & Kashmir Flood, 2014

An overview of the flood

During the last stage of monsoon in India, the Jammu and Kashmir state, and adjoining areas received heavy rainfall from 2 September 2014 onwards. This in turn led to landslides in the area and triggered flood. As of September 5, 2014, the Jhelum river in this region was overflowing, and as a result, the region witnessed one of the worst floods of the decade, costing the lives of several hundred inhabitants of both India and Pakistan.

In fact, the Prime Minister of India even declared the calamity to be a ''National Calamity''.

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The Impacts of the flood

The impacts are simply devastating. Over 1000 villages were totally affected. Statistics say that about 390 villages had been completely submerged and these villages no longer exist. Crops, roads and bridges were washed away in the landslide. 250+ lives were lost and INR 5,000 to 6,000 crores worth material loss.

What caused the flood? Was it a natural calamity, or a human evil?

Well, the reason attributed to the flood is torrential rainfall, which can be considered to be a natural trigger. But recently, an analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) suggests that this could very well be another manifestation of an extreme weather event – induced by a changing climate.

How is man to blame?

From a broad perspective, man is the primary villain in this tragedy.

  • In the last 100 years, more than 50 per cent of the lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. Naturally, these areas have suffered the most.
  • J&K does not have a flood forecasting system. Its disaster management system is also rudimentary.

Government to the rescue!

The Indian Armed Forces, along with the local youths who volunteered, took complete charge of the rescue mission and successfully excavated people from the submerged areas. The Central Government provided Rs. 2000 crores to the state for relief, along with monetary aids from other states of India. Food supply is guaranteed for 6 months to the victims, and the government is liable to provide clean drinking water and purifying water in the region. Rehabilitation funds have been provided to each family. Communication & transportation systems are being revived.

What could have been done? What next?

  • Right from the start, projects that involved destroying nature should have been controlled. Now, limitations should be laid on any similar projects in the future.
  • With the aid of technology, including real-time upstream monitoring mechanisms and space-based mapping processes, weather systems need to be prioritised and in be in place.
  • The disaster management system, evacuation schemes and city planning should have been efficient enough to tackle with emergencies. The government should now initiate such ideas.
  • India should start internalising climate change adaptation in all developmental policies and programme. From building of cities infrastructure to agriculture and from water supply to energy infrastructure, changes have to be made to incorporate climate change impacts.
  • India will also have to proactively work with other countries to reduce emissions to control the warming of the planet.