‘Ganderbal model could have saved Srinagar too’ Spotlight
Even as Srinagar and Bandipora districts reeled under record floods, their immediate neighbor, Ganderbal, escaped almost unscathed due to the newly-acquired depth of river Sindh.
Notwithstanding the trend that whenever there is flood in Srinagar, the Ganderbal district is also affected. But this year it wasn’t the case. Ganderbal recorded just two deaths and minimal damage to few structures despite the fact that its vital establishments like mini secretariat, degree college, fire service stations and police stations are situated right on the banks of river Sindh which flowed much above the danger mark.
“Like other major rivers, Sindh also witnessed a record increase in the water level which put us on high alert,” said A K Gupta, executive engineer of the Irrigation and Flood Control Division Ganderbal. “The water level crossed the danger mark as it touched 4.5 metres, but still the district remained safe with a minimal damage.”
Gupta attributed this to increased extraction of sand from river Sindh which helped in increasing its depth. “Sand extraction is a big sector in Ganderbal and over the last few years its increased activity has led to deepening of the river bed, thereby increasing its water carrying capacity,” he told Greater Kashmir. “So whatever extra water came, the Sindh accommodated it all.”
During the floods, the river flowed right upto the brim but didn’t cross the banks.
“For any river, dredging is an important part of its water carrying capacity and in river Sindh the activity was carried out unexpectedly by private sector,” said Fayaz Ahmad, an engineering graduate who is also a contractor for sand mining in the river. “Right from Manigam to Gangerhama and beyond, the sand extraction has resulted in the deepening of Sindh by 10 to 20 feet which accommodated huge amount of flood waters, thus saving the district from deaths and devastation.”
The deepened Sindh not only accommodated extra water but also increased the water speed. With no chances of stagnation and backflow, the river was back to its normal within few days. The normal Ganderbal also became a lifeline for downtown Srinagar as the district supplied hundreds of trucks of essential supplies.
According to locals, the last big flood experienced by Ganderbal was in 1992 when almost entire district was submerged in water. At that time, Srinagar was also affected.
Experts opined that the Ganderbal model could have saved Srinagar too. “Had Jhelum been dredged by say 20 feet, it’s carrying capacity would have doubled and the extra water which played havoc with the city could have easily passed through the river without overflowing its banks,” said Fayaz. “And the government doesn’t have to pay for this extraction but rather earn crores of rupees in royalty.”
“Government should just ban earth excavation from Karewas and instead open up Jhelum and other water bodies for the sector and see how the private operators will deepen the river depth,” said Fayaz. “Imagine if the same had been done when massive amount of earth was required for the construction of railway line, we could have saved our precious karewas and economically dredged the Jhelum too.”