Srinagar : How quickly will Kashmir recover from the shock and trauma this land of meadows, lakes and rivers underwent during the recent floods? Financially, within a few months or years, but emotionally, perhaps never.
For years, there had been warnings that no matter how much the greed and need of humankind to encroach and vandalise rivers, lakes and forests, one day these ecosystems would reclaim their original borders. This was ironically ignored by Kashmiris to their own detriment.
Going by historical records, except for its expansion in the north towards Ganderbal and some highlands in the central Badgam districts, the entire growth of summer capital Srinagar through residential colonies, business centres and even government infrastructure creation has for over 130 years been in the flood basin of the Jhelum river that flows through the city.
Historical records, including revenue records of the state government, prove that densely-populated and upscale residential areas left of the Jhelum are its old flood basin.
Walter Lawrence, the British land revenue settlement commissioner of Dogra maharaja Pratap Singh, noted that this huge flood basin had taken the brunt of the 1893 deluge and formed a huge lake right up to the present central Kashmir’s Badgam district.
Today, Walter Lawrence’s flood basin has vanished. Instead, there are residential neighbourhoods of the rich of Rajbagh, Kursoo, Jawahar Nagar, Gogjibagh, Wazir Bagh, Chanapora, Natipora, Bemina and Qamarwari, among others.
“What can be a bigger proof of the government’s lack of foresight and planning than the fact that the Hajj House, the Jhelum Valley Medical College, the state motor garages and even the land records office that houses Kashmir’s entire revenue records were constructed by the government in Bemina in the flood basin zone.
“All these government offices are today submerged under 10 feet of flood water,” said Farooq Ahmad, 54, a resident of the Qamarwari residential area, whose home has been under the flood waters for the last 12 days.
“Ironically, the entire flood basin that saved Srinagar in 1893 from greater devastation was vandalised through mindless planning for urbanisation,” Hakim Showkat Ali, a well known hydraulic engineer and a retired chief engineer, told IANS.