Jhelum’s Repeated Warnings
By Mohammad Ashraf
30 June, 2015
After the last year’s destructive flood which reflected the River’s annoyance, it has given two more warnings before it strikes in the most devastating final way!
The River Jhelum, Vitasta or Yveth has been the lifeline of Kashmir Valley from the earliest times. The entire Kashmir civilisation has been growing along the banks of the River and its tributaries. After the mythological Kashyapa drained the Sati Sar by killing the demon Jalodhbhava at Baramulla, the River has been written in the very first line of the thousands of years old history of Kashmir. Like the Sholokhov’s “Quiet Flows the Don”. Jhelum too has been quietly flowing and observing the happenings on its banks. However, it often turns furious when too many sins get washed into it!
The River which gave life to Kashmir has been vandalised and desecrated by us. Muck and filth of almost entire Kashmir flows into the River. Its banks have been encroached. For last half a century or so no one has bothered to dredge it and take away the silt. Over and above everything else its flood basin has been snatched and converted into colonies. Where else will it go except overflow its banks and sometimes may even change course.
Last year’s flood was Nature’s backlash in the form of a furious and desperate River trying to find its natural course. Reportedly during the flood the width of the River in some places in South Kashmir was few kilometres. It was flowing like a sheet of water taking away everything in its path. All the experts opined that the disaster was due to human greed and negligence of authorities to take preventive measures all these years in spite of the warnings of various experts. One had expected that the government would give the top most priority to prevention of future floods. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have been done regarding dredging and desilting. Neither the embankments have been strengthened.
The Met Office has again issued warning about the possibility of intermittent rains throughout the summer. They have admitted to the occurrence of climate change which is dangerously combining the effects of monsoons and western disturbances.We may be in for many more floods. After, the main flood of last September, there were two more which kept the people on their toes. These were warnings from Jhelum to the people to mend their ways. People seem to have developed a flood phobia. This will continue till some concrete measures are taken on ground on a large scale. Merely being alert and asking people to leave for safer places is no solution but a quick way to escape the basic responsibility. Delhi seems least concerned about this aspect of the situation. Allegedly, the Nature has come to their rescue to subdue Kashmiris. They will not be accused of human rights violations for these natural disasters. Nature’s elements do not need any AFSPA!
Kashmir is desperately looking for a Suya! During the time of Avanti Varman, it was Suya who initiated the extensive flood prevention measures. At present there is no hope to locate someone like Suya. The people will have to do their own bidding. During the last flood, it was the youth of Kashmir who came forward to rescue the people. In the absence of their untiring efforts, there may have been thousands of casualties. They may again have to step in to ensure on ground measures for prevention of future floods. If the youth all along the length of the River take up the job of desilting themselves, the capacity of the River will increase. Same is the case with flood spill over channel and so many other water bodies facing extinction. Again someone has to give the lead.
One wonders why the so called leaders of the popular movement can’t take up this very people friendly constructive activity.If Kashmir gets destroyed and washed away by vandalisation of its environment, “Azadi” will have no meaning! On one hand these people refuse to recognize the government as the genuine peoples’ representative while on the other hand they expect them to take all people friendly measures. A strange dichotomy! If Mahatma Gandhi could defy the British by making salt out of the sea and spun cloth on charkhas, why can’t our so called leaders take initiatives to safeguard our environment with massive peoples’ participation? It can’t be classified as “anti-national” activity!
Incidentally, Kashmir has lots of multi-millionaires who could easily sponsor environment friendly measures including desilting of the River and other water bodies. There are over a million unemployed youth who could even get some employment. Unfortunately, we have brain washed our youth for white collar jobs and they prefer to have the lowest possible government jobs rather than work with their own hands. There is no dignity for manual labour! The new generation needs to come out of this artificially created psychological barrier and take the initiative as they did during the actual flood.That may be our only and the ultimate hope!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired) is Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir
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