Saturday, April 25, 2015

Explore heavy militarization of Kashmir as reason behind Sept 2014 flood: Srinagar-based civil society coalition group

By Our Representative
In its just-released study, Srinagar-based Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), claiming to be an “amalgam” non-funded, non-profit, campaign, research and advocacy organizations, has strongly disputing the view that the unprecedented floods in South Kashmir valley in September 2014 were caused by 'cloud burst', or 'flash floods’.
Pointing out that such a view is “unsubstantiated” by the “meteorological and satellite evidence”, it says, it has been only spread to “bolster” the perception of the 'natural inevitability' of the flooding, even as emphasizing “official helplessness.”
The report says, as against the cloudburst theory, there is a “consensus” that the unseasonal and incessant heavy rainfall for about three and a half days, beginning on September 2-3, as well as unusually heavy and late snow in the past few winters, and a possible high degree of snow melt, was the cause of the flooding.
The Indian Meteorological department (IMD) data show between August 28 and September 10 the rainfall received (1645mm) in South Kashmir was (124.9mm, with the week ending September 10 seeing rainfall in excess over the weekly normal by as much as 792 per cent.
Titled “Occupation Hazard: The Jammu & Kashmir Floods of September 2014”, the report claims, the “extended period of unusually heavy rain indicates that the disaster management and weather monitoring mechanisms, both at the federal and state levels, had enough time (at least 24 hours) to issue widespread warnings, take precautionary measures, and put into place an evacuation plan.”
The report, running in 175 closely-typed pages, says, “Kashmir is a blind spot, in both the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Indian Meteorological Department's monitoring and flood forecas6ng establishments.”
It says, “The CWC operates a network of 878 hydrological sites throughout India, data from which are used for issuing Level forecasts at 147 sites and Inflow forecasts at 28 sites. Level forecasts are information about the likely water level in the rivers in 12, 14, 16 and 18 hours in advance.” Yet, strangely “There is no CWC flood monitoring station in J&K.”
The report states, the Disaster Management Division of the CWC, which is responsible for compiling inputs from all the agencies, in its 'Situation report' for September 2, 2014 made “no mention of the threat of floods in J&K, despite forecasts of heavy rainfall.”

Role of militarization

The report believes, the problem appears to have got worse confounded due to huge presence of armed personnel across J&K, resulting “in a pattern of land use where almost every topographical feature of Kashmir's varied ecosphere, be it glaciers, forests, mountains, hills, paddy fields, stream beds or lakes have been subject to the environmentally destructive consequences of military manoeuvres, encampments, and permanent military establishments.”
The report claims, “This is particularly true of forested tracts and meadows in the mountains, and the tops of the arid karewa plateaus around villages, which are valued for their strategic utility.” It adds, “The land under occupation is not confined to the country-side alone, but extends to civilian areas in the midst of congested and land strapped cities, leading to their skewed and anomalous growth.”
Quoting a 2012 study by an independent consultant in the course of preparing the Srinagar Master Plan, the report says, “26 sq km (7%) of the city lands under the Master plan area (including Srinagar and a large semi–urban peripheral area) are under use by the army and paramilitary forces.”
The report adds “According to the latest available figures disclosed by the Chief Minister on the floor of the J&K State Legislative Assembly in 2015, a total of 97,125 acres of land are under possession of Army and paramilitary forces.” “Of this”, it adds, “Approximately 21,337 acres of land are under illegal occupation of the armed forces.”
Even as blaming 'unplanned development' and 'encroachments' in Srinagar's waterways, peripheral wetlands, and traditional flood basins, or the “unprecedented inundation and damage from the floods”, the report insists, “Perhaps the most significant, yet unnoticed impacts of the occupation and militarization of J&K, has been its effect on the valley's urbanization."
JKCCS affiliates include Srinagar-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Public Commission on Human Rights, and International Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir. 
JKSSC draws its support from Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances, Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations, Armed Conflict Resolutions and People’s Rights Project, all of which are based in western countries.

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