After sweltering sun momentarily made this year’s summer unbearable in the valley, many parts of Kashmir woke up to cooling showers on Thursday morning. While the two-hour long heavy downpour once again exposed the summer capital’s poor drainage system, it posed serious question marks on Srinagar Municipal Committee’s handling of the city affairs.
As an overcast dawn finally ended the searing spell in the valley, Thursday promised to be a pleasing day.
But as it fleetingly rained cats and dogs, Srinagar streets shortly submerged and lived up to its old dogged reputation: caught off-guard on disaster management front.
As post-haste sweep, Srinagar Municipal Committee (SMC) mobilized its men and machinery. The response has now become a routine for the municipal body whose bosses are the ‘new newsmakers’ in town.
The roads and by-lanes in many parts of Srinagar including city centre Lal Chowk were water-logged—causing huge trouble to commuters and pedestrians.
“All hail the SMC, for messing up with Srinagar,” said a young banker whose early morning office routine was held hostage by submerged streets of Srinagar on Thursday. “This is what rain does to our city now. If only SMC wardens care to rise above their controversial routine and focus on their municipal mandate, things would’ve been different in the city.”
The J&K Municipal Corporation Act, 2000 enumerates a wide range of functions that are to be discharged by the Corporation—which are in consonance with twelfth Schedule and the Constitution (74th) Amendment Act, 1992 (CAA)—and the first function is “Sewerage and Drainage”.
“The reason drainage gets choked in the city is because people here misunderstand storm water drainage with sewage and they connect it with that, which ultimately leads to clogging,” a senior SMC official told Free Press Kashmir.
But the fact remains that people are facing problems due to the poor drainage and dewatering system in Srinagar for a long time now.
In fact, there’s a popular view among Srinagarites—that: there’s a lack of meticulous implementation of measures for tackling the mess in the city.
“Few hours of rain results in water-logged roads, which create inconvenience to the public,” said Bashir Ahmed, a resident of Jawahar Nagar. “Even the footpaths and manholes are not properly repaired by SMC, creating problems for everyone.”
Situation at present is that more than half of the drainage and sewage disposal work that had to be completed years ago remains incomplete and poses a hazard to Srinagar.
Over the years, the state government initiated a number of drainage schemes in Kashmir, but lack of funds terminated most of them.
The mega drainage scheme under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) launched in 2017 was not a success due to “inadequacy of funds”.
Presently, only 47 percent of Srinagar city is covered under drainage system and majority of the city areas have drainage that is 50 years old and its efficiency has gotten reduced to 10 percent over the decades.
And therefore, whenever it rains, even for a moment, it turns the city into a puddle and exposes the incompetence of various departments working for making Srinagar “a smart city”.
Failure to remove the suspended silt across drainage networks post 2014 floods has also increased chances of overflow in the low-lying areas.
But now, an SMC official said, the municipal body has started working on a ‘muck-clearing’ project rapidly, as the timeline given for the same is of three years, targeting the low lying areas.
“Srinagar has 30 percent surface drainage, while the remaining is deep drainage network,” the municipal official said. “We’ve been working on de-siltation from last two years in Srinagar. We de-silt open surface drainage with shovels and deep drainage with sophisticated machinery. Due to a wide-drainage network, the SMC was able to reduce the water logging in the city.”
But the problem remains that Srinagar’s existing drainage system is ‘old and obsolete’, making the urban localities prone to water logging whenever it rains now.
The outdated drainage system needs to be redesigned taking into account the present and future realities, particularly keeping in view the 2014 devastating deluge.
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