26 mm Rainfall Inundates Srinagar

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SRINAGAR: Barely a week after the Srinagar Mayor flaunted six new dewatering pumps with half a million litre per hour capacity on May 25, Kashmir’s heart – the Lal Chowk, was inundated again. This time, unlike last week, the rainwater managed to get into the shops and damaged a lot of property.

Vehicles moving through a water-logged road after rains in Srinagar on Thursday, August 1, 2019. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Srinagar Weatherman said Srinagar recorded a 26.4 mm rainfall during the morning which was highest in comparison to other places. Pahalgam recorded 16.6 mm rainfall, Gulamrag 1 mm, Pulwama 2 mm and Kokernag 1.1 mm. The weather, he said will improve by 4 pm but there is a likelihood of a downpour on Friday as well.

Last week when a similar brisk rainfall led to the inundation of Srinagar, the City Mayor had said they would be able to dewater Srinagar faster as they has introduced five pumps with 5 lakh litre per hour capacity and two more with 7 lakh litres per hour capacity are being introduced shortly. “Only 40 percent of Kashmir has a drainage system,” he said. “Situation will be improved once the entire city is fully covered.”

But Lal Chowk getting inundated is something that people are finding very hard to digest. The city square that is witness to history has a well-built drainage system. Why it got clogged when the rains lashed the city?

Most of the Lal Chowk looked like a canal. The shops on both sides of the roads had accumulated around six inches of water causing massive damage to items worth lakhs of rupees.

As the level of water swelled, the people started moving with their shoes in their hands. The schools operating in the belt had to close for the day. The shopkeepers whose shops were damaged were literally in tears. The pathetic scene was that of a cement seller whose entire stock was one concrete block, thanks to the mismanaged systems in place.

Lal Chowk’s conversion into a sort of a water body impacted the entire belt. Parts of Budshah Chowk, Residence Road and M A Road – all had to take a serious hit. The traffic could not manage its face and it led to huge traffic jams in the belt.

The other serious crisis that the centre of Kashmir faced was in the Exhibiting Grounds. Since the flyover constructions split the belt, most of the rainwater gets stored outside the Exhibition Grounds belt. It is really a pathetic scene to watch how the commuters pass that patch.

A passenger bus moves through a water-logged road after rains in Srinagar on Thursday August 1, 2019. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Residents and traders said that the government has not taken the city seriously even though the devastating September 2014 floods had identified the grey areas. “But this is not flood,” one trader in Lal Chowk said. “It is just rain and see where we are?”

People are laughing at the idea of upgrading Srinagar to a smart city.

Every time such a situation arises, the officials have their justification for the happenings.

SMC’s Superintending Engineer (drainage) Azad Ahmad told Kashmir Life: “We are working on a Rs 9 crore drainage project which is nearing completion. We are hopeful once the project will get completed, there will be no more such scenes even after the hours of downpour.” The work on the project is going from past many years, he said. However, the project work got stalled in between due to a stay order.

He further said to meet out such crises we need to have a good drainage system for which we have already submitted a detailed project report (DPR) amounting to Rs 14 crore for cleaning of choking the drainage system in the entire city. But the department is not getting the funds when needed.

Due to poor drainage system water enters in Shop at Lalchowk in Srinagar on Thursday, August 1, 2019. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

However, Mayor Junaid Mattoo said, “The drains are choked because of the silt brought by 2014 floods. The slit is yet to be cleared. The carrying capacity of the drains has decreased by 80 percent.”

He further said that they are taking the temporary steps for dewatering by firefighting mechanism but there is a need for a proper scientific setup. “It will cost us around 1000 crores to have well-mechanized drainage in the Srinagar city.”

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