Millennium Post

Rains and flood

Rains and flood

With the arrival of monsoon, the spectre of the flood is looming over many parts of the country. Jammu & Kashmir is already facing a flood-like situation after incessant rain through the last week. As of now, it is only the beginning of the monsoon and the rain has not been severe so far. But in the coming days when the monsoon intensifies, heavy rains are expected across the country including J&K, which witnessed a disastrous spell of the flood in 2014 when most parts of the state remained submerged for weeks and nearly 300 people died in flood-related incidents. After the floods, the Centre had approved a Rs 4,000-crore relief package for the state including about Rs 400 crore for desilting of the Jhelum river. As the state is once again staring at the possibility of flood during the monsoon, questions are being raised about the incompleted desilting work. The Jhelum is the only major river flowing through J&K and before the deadly 2014 flood, desilting was not undertaken in the river in the last 30 years. This had drastically reduced the carrying capacity of the river, which resulted in the excess water spilling over the banks and causing floods. Even after the funds released by the Cenre to undertake the desilting of the river after the 2014 flood, the work was not undertaken in the right earnest, with the effect that the river's carrying capacity has not increased from the level that it had in 2014. From lack of seriousness on the part of the state government, which is the executing authority for the project, to widespread corruption in carrying out the task are being blamed for the botched-up desilting work in the Jhelum river. Though Governor NN Vohra has said that the administration will take all possible measures to mitigate the effects of floods during the monsoon season, people in the state are still apprehensive and are reported to be moving their household goods to upper floors amid the fear that the floods are imminent. Apart from holding a meeting at Raj Bhavan about the administration's preparedness in view of the rising level of water in Jhelum and Tawi rivers in Jammu and Kashmir regions, Governor Vohra has also undertaken a visit to flood-prone areas and relief centres to take stock of the situation.

In order to ensure that the floods do not cause problems for the people on a massive scale and deal with the situation effectively, the administration has to put in place an entire range of contingency measures such as monitoring the water level of the rivers at different points across the state, mobilisation of rescue teams and boasts for evacuation of people in distress and ensuring medical facilities for the sick. Besides, an effective coordination has to be maintained between different agencies involved in relief and rescue measures. Though the government knows what it takes to deal with the situation, putting all these efforts together when the emergency arises is difficult. Dealing with the situation is a serious challenge for the administration and only very efficient and committed government officials are expected to contribute positively to the entire operation. The rainy season does not cause the flood alone in a state like J&K, but it also causes the landslides and basic infrastructures like roads and bridges are destroyed. So, the administration has to remain alert on many fronts to mitigate the problems arising out of the excessive rain during the monsoon.

Monsoon rains and the subsequent floods are an annual phenomenon in the most part of the country including the north-eastern states, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. All these states have to deal with devastating floods year after year. Apart from causing damage to standing crops and inundating farmlands making it impossible to revive the farm activity soon, they also destroy roads and bridges, sweep away electricity transmission lines, and cause diseases. During the floods, the government in all these states have to shift their focus on relief and rescue operations and after the floods, they have to initiate the task of rebuilding the lost infrastructure and rehabilitation of the affected people. The state governments and the Centre spend thousands of crores of rupees on these efforts every year. A major cause of floods in India is silting of riverbeds. If desilting efforts are taken well in time, much of the problem can be mitigated. Another important facet of the problem is the corruption involved in the relief and rehabilitation measures. Corrupt government officials take advantage of the calamity and the free flow of funds during this time to make illegal money. Similarly, ministers and contractors are often blamed for indulging in corruption in the rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure. For many, the annual floods are actually an opportunity to make money.

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