Roaring Jhelum leaves saffron town in shambles
Pampore ravaged by Sep 7 devastating deluge
For this picturesque town, September usually used to witness saffron bloom. However, this year, the wheel of fate turned against the people of Pampore bringing along endless miseries, death and destruction.
People of this area would remember September 2014 forever as the roaring Jhelum turned once bustling Pampore area, into a town of despair. Destruction is visible here with the area punctuated by collapsed houses and crumbled roads. The patch of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, passing through the town, has developed major cracks at various points making it unsafe for travel.
Entire Pampore town and the adjoining areas like Samboora, Namblabal, Frestabal, Drangbal and Kadalabal bore the brunt of the devastating floods.
After hectic efforts to protect the embankment of the river Jhelum, the residents, especially youth, here lost the battle with the ferocious Jhelum after four days on September 7 when the water started flowing several feet above the embankments within no time.
“It was exactly at 11 in the night, when Jhelum breached its embankment and flood waters started making their way into Pampore area. I left the spot where we were vainly trying to keep away the flood and asked my family to pack their bag and baggage and shift to some safer location,” says Abdul Qayoom Wani, a local resident. “We tried our level best to prevent water from entering into our area but failed as water level increased suddenly and washed away the embankment at many places. Water entered into Pampore town within no time.”
Next morning, Qayoom couldn’t identify his own house given the level of water. “Water level was increasing like anything and it was chaos all around. I could hear the shrieks and cries of women who were stuck in the torrent. Some youth used tyre-tubes and saved them,” he says.
Though the people here claim that flood hasn’t caused much damage to the saffron crop but they opine that this year would result in huge losses to them given the fact that there would be hardly be any takers for the prized crop. “Floods have ravaged Kashmir’s economy. Who would buy our crop and where would we sell it,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, who owns 32 kanals of saffron land at Tulbagh.
As per the rough estimates, at least 300 houses have developed mild to major cracks while more than 40 have collapsed due to devastating floods here. In the main market of Pampore, shopkeepers assert that they have lost goods worth billions. “This is an irreparable loss. It will take years to come to terms and to recover the losses,” says Jibran Nazir, who owns a ply-wood shop at Kadlabal, Pampore.
Flood has razed Jibran’s godown to the ground. “I had stored ply-sheets and other material there worth Rs 25 lakh and flood has destroyed everything. It has not spared wooden paneling sheets, which were kept at least eight feet above the ground,” he says, amid sobs.
Other shopkeepers have a similar story to narrate. Many are busy emptying their shops to clean the muck brought by the flood waters. Smile has faded from the faces of residents. Ironically, the engine of the de-watering pump located at the Pampore Chowk has turned defunct for remaining under flood water for over 15 days.
The residents of Pampore are, however, aghast stating that the government has been selective in relief distribution. “Does this look like a highway, where is the government. This road can sink anytime as it has lost balance,” says Khalid Majeed, a local. “We protest against the government negligence and also against the selective approach of the government for not providing us the relief.”
The locals had blocked the highway for hours on Thursday to register their protest.