J&K Government approaches ISRO for mapping Kashmir flood

Srinagar Floods

SRINAGAR — Clueless on how the summer capital Srinagar and other areas sank in the devastating flood on September 7, the J&K Government has now sought help from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for mapping the deluge.

“We have written to the ISRO to provide us the details about the quantum of rain received in Kashmir before the flood,” said Chief Engineer of Flood Control Department Kashmir, Javed Jaffer. “We have also sought details about cloudbursts which had hit some areas in south Kashmir.”

The ISRO has assured the J&K Government of providing the details within 15 days, the Chief Engineer said. “They (ISRO) raised some queries which we have responded to.”

A senior official said that using satellite data, the ISRO would chart the quantum of rains that Kashmir received from September 2 to September 6—a day before Srinagar was flooded—with “pinpoint accuracy”.

The Meteorological department which had sent alerts to the state government from September 2 to 6 about the “abnormally high rainfall” hitting parts of Kashmir, had recorded more than 300 mm to 500 mm of precipitation in parts of south Kashmir including Qazigund, Kokernag and Pahalgam, and also in Srinagar.

The rainfall received was 90 to 98 per cent higher than the precipitation normally received during the period, the MeT department said.

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The Flood Control department, which has come under criticism for its ill-preparedness before and after the flood, now claims that discharge in river Jhelum could have touched 1.50 lakh cusecs.

Last month, the state government said discharge in Jhelum was 1.20 lakh cusecs, which broke the highest record of 1.04 lakh cusecs recorded during the 1902 flood.

“Here (1.20 lakh cusecs) we are only talking about water in Jhelum and its flood channels. But the quantum of flood water will also include the discharge which was overflowing river embankments and flood channels. It was around four feet in height,” said Javed Jaffer. “The water that spilt into habitations and later flooded the city needed to be measured too to get the precise details of the flood.”

The Chief Engineer said all these calculations would be made by the ISRO using satellite-recorded data.

At present the water retaining capacity of Jhelum and its tributaries is 35000 cusecs and 15000 cusecs respectively.

Last month, the government said it was clueless about how waters “suddenly” rose in river Jhelum ultimately leading to the drowning of the summer capital.

“We are still not able to analyze what happened in the intervening night of September 6/7…the columns of water came into Jhelum which breached its embankments and the water then surrounded the city from the backside and the right side,” Commissioner/Secretary Flood Control Department, Pawan Kotwal, had said.

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However, he was quick to add that there was “evidence” of “sudden cloudbursts” around Kounsernag, Vaishaw and other Nallahs in south Kashmir which led to a “drastic rise” of water in Jhelum.

“The ISRO will also provide details about the cloudbursts,” said Chief Engineer Jaffer.

A day before Srinagar drowned, Jhelum was flowing at 25 feet—seven feet above the danger mark. The 33.6 feet gauge at Sangam in Anantnag (Islamabad) had come under water and later the department found that the water level had gone up to 38 feet there—14 feet above the danger mark.

An official report in 2010 had warned that Kashmir could be hit by a devastating flood in five years. Though the government had submitted a Rs 2200 crore Flood Management Project for Jhelum to New Delhi, it however got entangled in red tape in the State and Government of India.

The September 7 flood, as per government estimates, resulted in the loss of Rs 1 lakh crore (1 trillion) to Kashmir in public and private sectors. The business suffered massive losses too. Around 2.61 lakh structures were hit by the flood, with 91000 structures in worst-hit Srinagar alone.

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