Dewatering process goes awry, thanks to official apathy

Domestic generators procured to flush-out flood water; Hi-tech pumps flown from outside unused; JK’s own dewatering stations defunct

As most parts of flood-hit Srinagar continued to remained inundated for the 17th consecutive day Tuesday, a shipment of high-capacity dewatering pumps flown from New Delhi have remained unused on the Airport road near Hyderpora here. Reason: official apathy.

An official of the State’s Drainage department, after an argument with flood-hit people here—who were seeking that the pumps be used in their areas—shouted at them: “The pumps will be put to use only after meeting with higher-ups in the evening.”
Both, the response from the official and the ‘dumping ground’ for the machines lying unused outside the office of the Drainage department, only symbolize the state government’s “ill-planning” to carry out its “mission” to dewater the Srinagar city which has been ravaged by the September 7 floods.
A senior official said the dewatering program was never carried out in a planned manner.
“How could a generator that is usually meant for domestic purposes be put to use in a flood of this magnitude?” he asked. “It is a reflection of the misplaced priorities of the state government.”
The department has put to use 37 generator sets which are meant for domestic purposes to carry out the dewatering process. Moreover, 30 mobile pumps of the Drainage department and fire-tenders are also on the ground. But the Government’s failure to carry out speedy restoration of the permanent dewatering stations across the city, having capacity of 10 to 40 cusecs, has made it a target of public criticism.
Assistant Engineer, Sheikh Javaid, said of 76 permanent dewatering stations of the department across the Srinagar city, 48 stations have been made operational. However most of these stations were restored just few days ago, only after the public outcry.
“If the dewatering pump at Daresh Kadal had been restored, the entire flood water in downtown city would have been flushed out many days ago,” said the official.
Most parts of the city including some posh areas like Raj Bagh and Jawahar Nagar and other low-lying habitations like Bemina, Tengpora, Aalochi Bagh, and Indra Nagar remained submerged under several feet of flood water on Tuesday. People living in these areas have been staging protests, fearing that the stagnant flood water would completely damage their houses.
Officials said of the nine pumps outside the Drainage office at Hyderpora, a few were short of required equipment to make them functional while other machines would be put to use only after “proper permission”.
Sources said lack of coordination between State and the Government of India only added to the problem which is, in turn, now resulting in growing anger among the flood survivors.
Citing an example, the official said, last week two hi-capacity dewatering pumps of the ONGC were flown from Vishakhapatnam for de-watering the city. Initially, the plan was to bring six pumps. But, the official said, when the machines were to be airlifted, a technical problem put brakes on the “mission”.
“Each pump had to be dispatched with a 1200-meter long pipe of 12-inch diameter. But there were no pipes,” the official said. “Finally only two pumps were sent and the matter was again managed somehow.”
Under criticism and having failed to make its permanent dewatering stations functional across Srinagar, the beleaguered state government then shifted to “Plan B”– use of fire tenders, generators and help from outside.
Outside the Hyderpora office of the Drainage Wing, the affected people from Tengpora and Bemina Tuesday argued with its officials, seeking that the dewatering pumps be used in their areas.
“My house is about to collapse. We have been visiting this office for the past three days pleading before the authorities to allow us to use one of unused pumps,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Dar of Muslima Abad, Bemina.
He said the flood water in the area could have been flushed out way back had the government restored the local dewatering station. “They could have isolated the station to make it functional,” Dar said.
Another resident of Tengpora, Abdul Rashid said his locality consists of around 700 households. “If one of these pumps is installed there, our problem will be solved,” he said.
Dinesh Kumar, an operator, who was flown with six dewatering pumps sent by a corporate house in New Delhi, said his team would take only 20 minutes to make the pumps functional. The team of six operators, sent to manage the pumps, is sitting idle.
“The six machines we bought have the capacity to flush out five cusecs of water per minute,” Kumar said. “We just need an order to start the work.”
A senior official said de-watering had to be taken by the Flood Control department once the city got submerged. “But the department fled from the scene. The job of drainage department ends when flood hit a place,” he claimed. “But we are managing the show despite all hardships.”

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