“I am aware of the responsibilities I shoulder.”

In an exclusive interview with GK Correspondent Mudasir Yaqoob, Shah talks about the measures taken for flood mitigation and responds to allegations against the department. Here are the excerpts.

Mudasir Yaqoob
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 15 2018 10:32PM | Updated Date: Sep 15 2018 10:32PM
“I am aware of the responsibilities I shoulder.”File Photo

River Jhelum is the main source of irrigation in Kashmir and has been marred by extensive siltation in last few decades. In absence of any conservation measures, its carrying capacity had diminished, besides leading to blockage of its lone outflow channel in Baramulla, enhancing risk of floods in the Valley.

 Farooq Ahmad Shah, secretary PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Department says that much is being done under flood mitigation plan.

In an exclusive interview with GK Correspondent Mudasir Yaqoob, Shah talks about the measures taken for flood mitigation and responds to allegations against the department. Here are the excerpts.

Is it corruption or inefficiency that leads to disasters like Lasjan bund collapse?

Probe was ordered in Lasjan Bund collapse. Government had seriously viewed this matter. It was found that seepage was responsible for it. Its restoration was taken up on war footing. Later, inspection of all embankments along the length of river Jhelum was conducted.

Officers have been asked to work with dedication and commitment. However, if there is any specific complaint, we will look into it. There is no space for corruption or inefficiency. Action under rules is always followed for any kind of dereliction of duty.

36 hour rains are enough to bring the water level upto danger mark on gauge, when will it change?

There are many reasons for this. One of them is very high intensity of rainfall. The quantum of rainfall received in any particular catchment has increased mainly due to the change in the climate, hence such rainfall for longer duration, upto 3 days, is sufficient to make the Jhelum swell up.

The time of concentration of floods in the tributaries has decreased due to deforestation in the upper catchments and non-utilization of the detention basins. In past the areas located on the left side of River Jhelum between Sangam and Padshahi Bagh were used as Detention Basins (D1+D2) and naturally the water used to spread in the area with the less concentration of flood discharge through the main river at Srinagar. Due to urbanization of these detention basins and coming up of railway line, expressway (Four Lane) and other developmental activities the capacity of detention basins has reduced.

The department has already initiated all possible steps in pursuance to the recommendations and instructions contained in the report prepared by the core group formulated on the instructions of Prime Minister of India as announced by him on 18 September, 2014 besides continuous visits of the expert team of central water commission and ministry of water resources ministry of water resources, Government of India.

So much money spent on dredging, and no results. Why so? 

As per experts, for nearly 30 years, the Jhelum and its outflow channel had not been dredged, drastically reducing its carrying capacity. A government panel had suggested that the topography of the Valley made it prone to disastrous floods, in addition to the river's reduced carrying capacity and shrunken flood spill channel.

We need dredging in outfall which will help in draining of water. J&K Advisor to Governor and Chief Secretary is very seriously monitoring all the developments about flood mitigation plan and directed for taking all necessary measures to avoid floods.

Are you satisfied with the performance of Irrigation and Flood Control Department when we speak about of flood mitigation?

The officers in the department have been directed to expedite the works regarding flood mitigation, in a time bound manner, and their performance is being reviewed and wherever performance is poor, immediate remedial action being taken and those responsible for poor performance are being taken to task.

Can you share the figures of the land under encroachment, and also what has been so far retrieved?

The Department with active support of district administration has already initiated an action with regard to removal of encroachments from the banks of river Jhelum and other water bodies along with canals/nallahs.

From Jhelum banks, authorities have demolished 914 Kucha/Pucca structures, 1163 boundary walls and cut down 818174 tress.

From other water bodies, 996 Kucha/Pucca structures were demolished, 434 boundary walls, and 667277 tress have been cut down. This all area has been retrieved.

What about fresh attempts made by elements to encroach land near water bodies?

I have issued clear directions and authorised the officers to foil any such attempt by seeking police help.

 

Despite failure of a private dredging firm to meet target, even after extended deadlines authorities did not recommend it to be blacklisted.

The contract with M/s Reach Dredging has already been discontinued.

How you are going to increase Jhelum’s water carrying capacity?

The second phase of the plan is expected to improve the Jhelum’s water carrying capacity to its maximum of 60,000 cusecs in South Kashmir. In Srinagar, this capacity is to be increased to 35,000 cusecs. The remaining 25,000 cusecs is to be diverted through the Rambagh flood spill channel, whose discharge capacity is also proposed to be increased. Most of the work on Rambagh flood spill has been completed.

Some experts allege that their expertise on subject is being ignored.

I have been holding meetings with experts, seeking their valuable suggestions, advices and feedback. The team of experts also includes some retired chief engineers. Let me tell you that history tells us that Kashmir has been affected always by the floods in the past. Our aim is how to stop this destruction further and manage floods. We are taking suggestions, advises and feedback from experts and respect their feedbacks.

What are the achievements of first phase of flood management plan?

Comprehensive Flood Management Plan of River Jhelum and its tributaries Phase-I costing Rs 399.29 Crore is under process. The components of Phase-I land acquisition, toe protection, retaining wall on river Jhelum from Khanabal to Baramulla, on/Crate Wall, Length of revetment on river Jhelum from Khanabal to Baramulla, structures like bridges on flood spill channel at Shariefabad and Naidkhai, dredging of River Jhelum and excavation, earthwork on flood spill channel at Shariefabad and Naidkha.

We are working on a multi-pronged strategy on flood management. First part is increasing the outflow of river Jhelum by dredging. Dredging work is going on by the departmental dredgers. So far as the dredging of Wullar is concerned, it is being looked by the WUCMA (Forest Department).

Other part is re-sectioning of river Jhelum by restoring capacity of flood channels. Re-sectioning of flood channels at Shariefabad and Rawalpora are going on at full swing. It would help in diverting water during times of high discharge in the river Jhelum.

About 140 spots on the tributaries have been temporarily restored and strengthened and 25 spots Jhelum are under progress. Water bodies were being restored to their full capacity.

Flood channels will help in increasing carrying capacity of Jhelum to 60,000 cusecs. It will help in flood management by charging these water bodies at the time of rising water level in the river.

What are the priority works under Phase – II.

The priority under Comprehensive Flood Management Plan of River Jhelum and its tributaries under phase II include: widening of Outfall Channel from Sopore to Baramullah by 40 meters. widening, deepening and re-sectioning of Flood Spill Channel from RD 0 at Padshahibagh to RD 48 km in Wullar excluding the portion already taken up under Phase – I. The Flood Spill Channel would be extended inside the wetlands.

Under Phase-II, we will further cover construction of F.P. works and widening at selective reaches of River Jhelum from Anantnag to Baramulla, feasibility of channel from Asham to Ningli will be worked out, remodeling of bridges from Sopore to Baramulla on Outfall Channel as recommended by CWPRS, anti-erosion works on tributaries of River Jhelum in South, Central and North Kashmir, feasibility of dredging from execution vis-à-vis economic viability and availability of funds.

All works under Phae-I shall be completed by March, 2019.

Department has installed five automatic Water Level Recorders and Rain Gauges on. The capacity of river Jhelum will increase from 40000 to 60000 cusecs at Sangam after implementation of DPR-Phase I and II.

What are the categories for remedial measures for mitigation of floods?

The experts categorized the remedial measures for mitigation of floods under immediate measures, short term measures and long term measures.

Immediate Measures already completed during 2015-16.

Short term measures under Phase-I is under execution and the detailed project report for Phase-II is under preparation through M/S WAPCOS as per the scientific study carried by the CWPRS – Pune.

Under long term measure, the Irrigation and Flood Control Department Kashmir, in collaboration with department of disaster management, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction of J&K state had floated the Expression of Interest/Tenders for “Consultancy Services for Conducting Surveys, Studies, Formulation of Comprehensive FM Plan and Preparation of Detailed Project Report for Flood Management Works of River Jhelum and Its tributaries” through Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP) Project Management Unit of World Bank, for which various National and International firms had participated and the Consultancy Contract has been allotted to M/S Eptisa Services de Ingenieria, S.L. (Spain) for which the agreement has been signed on 29.06.2018. This will serve as the best fit solution for the efficient management of the floods in valley.

What are the proposals for long term flood mitigation measures?

The department has proposed the long term flood mitigation measures, which include the proposal for construction of supplementary flood spill channel. Enhancement of carrying capacity of the River Jhelum from Khannebal to Khadinyar by way of dredging and River training works. Dredging of water bodies like Narkara Numbal, Khushalsar, Anchar Lake. Gilsar, Hokersar wetland, Nowgam Jheel, Haigam Rakh, Wullar lake, subject to environmental clearance and impact analysis (EIA). Anti-erosion and training works on tributaries of River Jhelum. Automation and upgradation of flood monitoring system of Jhelum basin by installing automatic water level recorders, automatic discharge recorders and automatic weather stations etc.

There is no coordination between irrigation and flood control department and Wullur development authority.

It is true that dredging of Wallur and all other relevant jobs which have direct affect on Jhelum flood mitigation falls under the domain of  Wullur Development Authority.

The coordination between these two agencies is important for good results. I have recently written to the Wullur authorities and requested them for starting dredging of the Wullar lake, which is a major part of the flood management.

Department tried to increase capacity of Rambagh Flood Channel but did not connect it with further with Hokersar. Reason?

The work is in progress. It will be completed within stipulated time.

Isn’t it proper to have your own dredgers for the river than outsourcing the project?

Yes, to have a sustainable dredging in the outfall channel of river Jhelum from Sopore to Khadinyar, the purchase of more dredgers will be beneficial to mitigate the flood threat of river Jhelum. The revival of dredging division incorporating the workshop facilities is also requirement to keep the system in place with minimum break down. The department has already purchased two dredgers and two more are being purchased.

What about restoration of erstwhile dredging circle?

Experts maintain that viable option to increase Jhelum’s carrying capacity is to revive the erstwhile ‘Circle for Dredging’ in the Irrigation and Flood Control department. The Circle existed prior to 1986 and had proven to be an effective and economical option.

This year, farmers were advised not to plant paddy due to less rains. Why authorities failed make alternatives for irrigation?

The Department had devised draught action plan for the valley especially for the areas which were identified as draught prone. Due to deficient water resource availabilities there was no alternative with the department but to issue advisory for the Aabi Duam and Aabi Saum areas to go for dry crops.

Complaints pour in from various areas especially Srinagar about water scarcity.

There is no scarcity of drinking water in Srinagar district. Against a requirement of 80 crore liters per day, the availability of drinking water in Srinagar district is 90 crore litres. Presently, the department is concentrating on efficient distribution of drinking water by way of replacing  old pipes etc. The Hon’ble Governor had directed that there should be no problem of drinking water anywhere in the State. The officers of the public health department have been asked not to leave any stone unturned in providing drinking water to every household of the State.

Department of PHE is committed to provide safe drinking water to the people across the state and efforts are on to accomplish the mission.

The department has been entrusted with a noble job of ensuring the very basic services to the people by providing pure and safe drinking water. The PHE Department is committed to provide safe drinking water to the people across the state and efforts are on to accomplish the mission. Various schemes have been implemented in the state to ensure adequate water supply to consumers. I have directed the officials to prepare Detailed Project Reports (DPR) at an earliest for making non-functional filtration plants and irrigation schemes fully functional and to address the requisite water requirements. We have also stressed on to maintain cleanliness in and around the filtration plants besides erecting fencing around them to ensure safe drinking water is supplied to the consumers. 

As Director Tourism and later Director General of Tourism/Secretary Tourism, your contribution to attract maximum number of tourists to Kashmir is remarkable. Can people expect same performance from secretary irrigation and flood control?

(Smiles) The Government of J&K is very serious in taking effective measures for flood mitigation. This is the job where no wrong can be excused. Floods destroy markets, damage residential houses and sources of income and livelihood.

I am aware of the responsibilities I shoulder.

I am sincerely discharging my duties as secretary PHE Irrigation and Flood Control as I had been as Director or Director General of tourism/Secretary Tourism or as Secretary School Education.

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