A MILESTONE FOR DISASTER RELIEF & MANAGEMENT IN JAMMU & KASHMIR

On numerous occasions, this Heaven on earth called Kashmir has witness the wrath of mother nature which resulted in massive loss of lives and property. It is hard to forget the images of shattered houses and infrastructure of 2005 earthquake or how the Kashmir was swept away in 2014 floods. Floods in the region of Jammu and Kashmir is not something new or also we can say aren’t exactly an uncommon phenomenon. If we look back at the history of floods, the state has faced the worst floods in the year of 1959. The main reason of these floods is the Jhelum River, which crossed the danger mark, thereby flooding the valley. Also, these floods caused mass destruction in which approximately, 200 people lost their lives till date. Many authors have also written in their books about the floods that occurred in the valley and how it affected the lives of people and how crops were submerged in floods. While flash floods in the region, mainly triggered by the combination of heavy rainfall and landslides are common, the state has also seen flood caused by a cloudburst in the Leh-Ladakh region of J&K. So, the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir in collaboration with a United Kingdom based space technology agency are together working on a project i.e. impact based flood forecasting which help in predicting the floods and their impact using the previous flood data for timely preparation and preventive actions to save lives.

Since, the union territory is also known as a paradise on earth and has mesmerizing beauty which makes it a popular tourist destination but due to the large history of floods in the region, it has affected the tourism repeatedly. Tourism has always been considered as a source which brings in foreign exchange, new ventures for employment and new business opportunities, which in return enhance the economic development; but at the same time it is highly vulnerable to external, non- controllable events. The flood of 2014 had a devastating impact on the industry leading to an overall infrastructure losses of Rs 1700 crores, hotels faced a loss of Rs 200 crores, the Foreign tourist arrival(FTA) dropped to 23%. Approximately, 100 house boats in Dal & Nagin lake were completely submerged in flood. Moreover, the GSDP of J&K state witnessed a negative growth of -1.57% during the year 2014 when the it got affected by the flood. Approximately, 200 vehicles of state road Transport Corporation got inundated during this flood. It also lead to mass destruction, loss of life and more importantly affected the healthcare sector which lead to severe health issues in the population. Four out of the five major hospitals in Kashmir were shut down due to floods as flood water entered the hospitals and the patients had to be shifted to functional hospital in the city. Those hospitals also faced lack of beds and nursing staff. A later revealed data shows that approximately 5462 villages were affected out of which 2489 were in Kashmir valley, 3153 in Jammu and around 800 villages were sub-merged for over two weeks. A Government official also stated that more than 3,50,000 structures which included mostly residential houses were damaged. As a result thousands of people were homeless and were left without any livelihood. During this natural disaster, the education sector also suffered, as many schools collapsed and were completely destroyed, also many of them were partially damaged which required it to be rebuilt. Due to floods, the roads were blocked and most of the highways were cut-off, which resulted in disruption of essential supplies to the union territory.

Flood forecasting predicts the flow rates and water levels based on the precipitation and stream flow data during rainfall runoff.  One of the causes of floods resulting in loss of precious lives is lack of forecasting infrastructure. Their impact can be minimised if an early warning of such natural disaster is given in advance, so that all the contingencies can be accordingly planned. The entire project is supported by the National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP). The NSIP programme is directly in association with Oxford University. The Project will help in identifying the relationship between predicted floods and the impact of the floods. It will predict the impact on people, their houses, crops and their livestock. This system will use the information which is based on the Earth Observation (EO), by feeding the information. The system itself is capable of getting linked to any existing or future flood flow forecasting system. Moreover, the state of Jammu and Kashmir will not incur any cost during the setting up of this forecasting system.

The Flood forecasting system will help in predicting all the risks associated to floods with respect to expected loss of life, infrastructure disruption, injuries  that occur to the affected, and the Economic disruption. The project will also help in effective contingency planning, thereby considering most of factors arrived from the predictions. Also, these predictions will help in mitigating the challenges that people will face at the time of floods. Further, the international collaboration to setup the system is specific because it will help in analysing the post flood events.  Rescue teams like NDRF can be timely intimated based on the forecasting and accordingly the warning can be issued so as to minimize the loss of life, infrastructure and various other losses.

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