Govt failed to tackle the flood threat posed by Chenab and Tawi, protection works only on paper

The state government has failed to tackle the flood threat posed by the mighty Chenab and Tawi and much-touted flood protection projects exist on paper only.

The non-serious approach of planners has emerged as the biggest threat to water bodies, which are facing devastating effect of human intervention and climate change in the past three decades.

Although the State Administrative Council recently approved Rs 5,400 crore for flood protection works in the Jhelum in Kashmir, there is no clarity about the projects to streamline and channelise Chenab, Tawi and other small rivers in Jammu. Prone to flooding during the monsoon, these rivers sometimes leave a trail of destruction behind them.

Long before the September 2014 floods, two comprehensive reports of more than Rs 3,000-crore projects for phase-wise channelisation and protection of the Tawi and Chenab were prepared and submitted to the Central government for funding.

In 2012-13, when Sham Lal Sharma was Minister for Irrigation and Flood Control in the NC-Congress government, the administration had engaged WAPCOS, a Government of India undertaking for geological, hydraulic survey and design of the Chenab project.

“The project envisages flood protection of the Chenab from Akhnoor to Hamirpur-Sidhar on the Indo-Pak border. It was estimated that about 2 lakh hectares of land would be retrieved and it would minimise the threat of flooding,” said a senior official in the irrigation and flood control department.

In 2008, a detailed plan was also approved for the Tawi to strengthen and beautification of embankments from the Sidhra bridge up to the 4th bridge. It was submitted by the irrigation and flood control department to the Union Ministry of Water Resources and Central Water Commission. The ambitious lake project has almost been abandoned despite Rs 40 crore having been spent on it.

“What happened to Rs 1,500-crore World Bank-funded Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project? So far it has failed to move beyond official meetings. The international financial body was to assist J&K to strengthen disaster management in 2015,” said Pankaj Khajuria, a social activist engaged in highlighting ecological impact of expanding population.

Under the Rs 80,068-crore Prime Minister’s Development Package for J&K announced in 2015, the flood management project was an important component, but its implementation, especially in the Jammu region remain tardy.

However, Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control (Jammu), Vinod Kumar Gupta didn’t respond to repeated attempts to get official position on the various projects.