‘Meltdown of accumulated snow, rainfall led to high water level in Jhelum’ Kashmir floods
A scientific study has punctured the claims of the state government that devastating flood in Kashmir last month was caused by cloudbursts. The survey says abrupt meltdown of accumulated snow on mountains and incessant rains led to high water levels in river Jhelum.
On September 7, Jhelum crossed a record 23-feet mark at Ram MunshiBagh in Srinagar—five feet above the danger mark, while the water level at Sangam in Anantnag was recorded at over 33 feet, thereby submerging localities on both sides of the embankments.
Government had said that sudden increase in water level in Jhelum was caused by cloudbursts. However, the study titled ‘2014 Extreme Floods in Kashmir: Genesis, Magnitude and Correctives’ conducted by Head, Department of Earth Sciences, Kashmir University Prof ShakeelRomsoo has dismissed the cloudburst theory on the basic of scientific studies and data analysis of Automatic Weather Stations in the Valley and Earth Observation Geo-Stationary Satellites.
The study states that the widespread and intense rains observed in the state from September 1 to 7 are mainly attributed to the rare combined effect of the Western Disturbance (WD) over J&K and its interaction with monsoons.
It states this system intensified in its last phase in the valley that predominately received the precipitation from Western Disturbances. “The high rainfall in south Kashmir and along the PirPanjal mountains gives credence to the influence of the monsoons in the observed extreme rainfall preceding the 2014 Kashmir floods,” it states.
With the urbanized and mismanaged floodplains of Jhelum lending impetus, the study states, the situation attained disastrous dimensions due to the prolonged steady precipitation observed over the entire Kashmir valley during the first week of September.
“The situation was compounded by the higher snowmelt runoff from the extensive snow-packs observed in the mountainous regions this year. Kashmir valley has been receiving a good amount of snowfall since
2010, which is responsible for the higher snowmelt runoff in the Jhelum tributaries even in the month of September,” the study states.
The study points out to the reports of several cloudbursts in the upper reaches of the Jhelum basin during the period. It states that the sudden and drastic increase of the water levels in the Jhelum basin have been ascribed to these “hearsay cloudbursts.”
“The cloudburst reported in Sonamarg area is said to have increased the water level in Sindh nallah by 75 cm in just two hours. Similarly, the cloudburst reported in Kounsarnagmountains in South Kashmir is believed to have drastically increased the turbulent flow of the Vishavnallah causing
tremendous damage to infrastructure and crops along its banks. However, there is no instrumental or satellite data evidence of these reported cloudbursts in the entire basin,” it states.
“Analysis of data from 18 Automatic Weather Stations in Kashmir and half a dozen earth observation geostationary satellites does not give credence to any of these hearsay cloudbursts,” Romshoo states in the study.
Pertinently, the Commissioner/Secretary Irrigation and Flood Control department, PawanKotwal, had said on September 30 that the increase in water level in Jhelum was caused by cloudbursts.
“There were evidences of sudden cloudbursts around Kounsernag, Vaishaw and other nallahs in south Kashmir which led to drastic rise of water in Jhelum,” he had said during a press conference here.
The study has analyzed the archived meteorological data for the last 125 years for the Srinagar city. “September is the least rainy month for the valley with the mean rainfall of 26.6 mm, but the summer capital of the state recorded about 173 mm of rainfall in the first week of September crossing its 25 year high of 151.9 mm, thus preceding the 1992 floods. Seven days of incessant rainfall recorded at certain places in south Kashmir like Qazigund crossed 617 mm of rain,” it states.
Jhelum which passes through Srinagar has a capacity of 35,000 cusecs and the flood spill channel of the river has a capacity of 12,000 to 15,000 cusecs. On September 7, over one lakh cusecs of water entered Srinagar city.
The study states that the flood inundation levels recorded in the floodplains of the Jhelum were highest in the archived hydrological history of Kashmir. In south Kashmir, several villages and cultivated lands were washed away by the floodwaters of the turbulent mountainous tributaries of the Jhelum like Rambiara, Veshu and Romshi.
Romshoo maintains in the study that inordinate delay by the state government to breach traditional Kandzal embankment of river Jhelum is one of the major factors that led to submergence of the Srinagar city during recent floods.