In view of the forecast of heavy snowfall and rains in Kashmir from December 11, the Mechanical Engineering Department (MED), said it has put all the arrangements in place to ensure speedy snow clearance and dewatering.
“Mechanical Engineering Department, Kashmir is fully prepared for timely clearance of snow and all the preparations have been done to keep men and machinery ready to respond to any situation in view of the weather advisory from December 11,” said Vijay Kumar Raina, Chief Engineer Mechanical Engineering Department Kashmir.
Pertinently, the Met Department has issued weather advisory according to which a western disturbance is approaching J&K and adjoining areas due to which moderate to heavy snowfall is expected at most places in the state from December 11 to December 13, 2017. “This system is likely to affect J&K from December 9 onwards and produce moderate to heavy snowfall on 11, 12 and 13 December,” the advisory said.
Responding to the advisory, Raina said as directed by the government, the department has carried out the mock drills, other preparatory works and has directed the officials at the district and provincial level to keep the men and machinery ready. He said the Minister for Works, Naeem Akhtar is personally monitoring the situation.
“We have activated our control rooms including 10 in South Kashmir, 5 in North Kashmir and 3 in Central Kashmir. We have also created one provincial level control room which will keep track of every development across the region as far as the weather changes are concerned,” he said, adding “Our manpower and machinery are ready and are in a state of preparedness, so as to minimize disruption of essential services, road connectivity, restoring electric supply, water supply, healthcare services etc,” he said.
Raina informed that the department has prepared the ‘Snow Clearance Action Plan’, under which the men and machinery are deputed on the immediate basis. Elaborating, Raina said the “Mechanized Snow Clearance Action Plan”, covers almost all the major routes across Kashmir region. Besides, some additional roads have been incorporated in the instant plan as per the demand received from the Public Works Department.
He said during Snow Clearance Operations, it may not be possible to clear mechanically such portions of roads whose condition is abnormal having a rough surface and the same shall have to be taken up for manual Snow Clearance by R&B Wing of the Public Works Department.
“We have to work in synergy and public support is vital in these operations,” he said. “We have adequate staff and machinery available. But need support from all departments and enhancing communication channels are very important in this regard,’ he said.
Raina divulged that as per the past precedence, the “Mechanized Snow Clearance Operation” has been divided into three Operational Zones for smooth implementation of the Action Plan. Zone-I includes Central Kashmir districts of Srinagar, Budgam, and Ganderbal, Zone-II include Islamabad, Pulwama, Shopian &Kulgam and Zone-III includes Baramulla, Kupwara & Bandipora including Gurez area.
Regarding availability of machines in the department, Raina said the department has various machines, including some high-end equipment, like Snow Ploughs, Snow Cutters, Motor Graders, Motor Loaders and Dozers and Unimog.
“We have 141 machines standby and these have been distributed to various districts according to the requirement,” he said. “This distribution has been done in accordance with the quantum of work in the respective zones, and also with the fair consideration of the importance of the respective roads,” he said. He said the department also possesses a big fleet of road rollers, soil compactors, Motor Graders, trucks, tippers, cranes, excavators, dozers etc.
“Three Leyland Stallion Recovery Cranes and one each in the respective Snow Clearance Zone shall be kept as stand-by for recovery, servicing of snow clearance machines,” he said.
He informed that the standby machinery would be kept as reserve and shall be deputed to various sites to deal with any emergencies to arise anywhere in the Valley. This decision has been taken in view of the problems faced previously during heavy snowfall in different parts of the Kashmir region, especially in Gulmarg, Shopian, Yousmarg, Beerwa, and Kupwara etc.
“For effective implementation of the operations, Mechanical Engineering Department issues Snow Clearance Action Plan every year. For that we have the Operational Staff manning the equipment, 2) the Supervisory and Administrative Staff, the Priority-I, II, III and IV roads and Allocation of various machines,” he said.
He further said that the MED also works with the Joint Control Rooms, which are established with help of other departments here. He said that after weather advisory, all arrangements have been put in place by the concerned district administrations to deal any emergency.
About the functioning of Mechanical Engineering Department, Kashmir, Raina said that it is a service department inherently playing a key role in providing infrastructure facilities in developmental activities in the Kashmir region.
He said that other than maintaining and operating huge road construction equipment, the department is handling complete Mechanized Snow Clearance Operation, running and maintenance of central heating systems and other allied mechanical works in various government-run Hospitals; Medical College, Srinagar, and Director Health Services, Kashmir. Moreover, he said that the department is undertaking works like fabrication of Heavy Steel Structures, Design and execution of Central Heating Works, the establishment of Cold Stores for Apples, Sprinkler Irrigation works, Creation of Mechanized Mushroom Development Centres procurement and installation of Mechanical equipment’ for Engineering and Non- Engineering Departments.
Raina recalled that the Mechanized Snow Clearance by Snow Clearance Machines has been started in the Kashmir region after 1990. Prior to 1990, all the snow clearance of roads was being done manually by utilizing the services of laborers who would remove snow with the help of shovels.
“This process would take days’ altogether and the major inter-district roads would remain cut-off for weeks. It was during that period the Government agreed to the proposal submitted by our department for the procurement of Snow Clearance machines for Snow Clearance operation of the valley with the hope of giving immediate relief to the General Public during snowfall,” he said.
He said that the Snow Clearance attachments (Blades) were procured from Germany and were fitted on the heavy-duty trucks from TATA. “The fleet kept on growing and at present, the Department has about over 141 various types of Snow Clarence Machines, like Snow Cutters, Snow ploughs, Snow Cats. He said that Mechanized Snow Clearance operation has come in a big way as, over 8,000 km of road length is to be cleared this season.
“Every year more and more roads are constructed, developed particularly in rural areas and handed over to our Department for Snow Clearance operation,” he said, adding “The Quantum of work is progressively increasing and the operation is extending to high altitude areas where the Snow Depth experienced is more. To meet this growing challenge Snow Clearance equipment is being augmented every year, with the addition of Snow ploughs, Snow cutters, and Snowcats etc.”