Jhelum water level to remain elevated this year

Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, Apr 23: The residents of Srinagar will have sleepless nights this year as river Jhelum will flow at higher level due to more snowfall in last winter and drastic drop in the water carrying capacity of Srinagar Flood Spill Channel.
More rains in April, choking of flood spill channel, rising temperatures and encroachments have led to increasing water level in river Jhelum this year posing flood threat to Srinagar.
With slight rains, the water level of Jhelum is rising quickly this year. In first week of April with two days of rain, the water level of the river in Srinagar reached over 21 feet posing threat to Srinagar city.
This year there has been highest rainfall in April in last two decades and the temperatures have risen to 30 degree Celsius this month which is also a record. As there was more snowfall this winter and the rising temperatures have led to melting of snow and rise in water level of Jhelum.
The agriculture activity is yet to start and entire water goes into Jhelum which leads to rise in water level. In May, there are chances of water level coming down when the water will be used for agriculture.
Major factor for rising water level in Jhelum is choking of flood spill channel. Its carrying capacity is around 3000 cusecs as compared to 12500 cusecs.  However,
Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department Mohammad Hanif Lone said the Rs 142 crore are being spent on flood channel to clear it and once the project is completed by the end of this year it will have carrying capacity of 15000 cusecs.
The major hurdle in flood channel project is retrieving of 1560 kanals of land that has been encroached by farmers in Khushipora area near Sharifabad. Out of this, 300 kanals of land has been retrieved after government’s negotiations with the farmers but others are adamant and they demand huge compensation for government land.
The Chief Engineer said that since the project is to completed this year, they will use force to retrieve the land and cut the trees. “Divisional Commissioner Kashmir is monitoring the work and has directed Deputy Commissioners of Budgam and Bandipora for assisting the department in retrieving the land”, he said.
Another major hurdle is the absence of the flood channel in Hokersar wetland area (Kushipora to Narbal) and the flood water directly goes into the wetland and has resulted in its siltation. This has led to decrease in the carrying capacity of Hokesar over the decades and inundation of villages in its peripheries. In 2008, the I&FC department had started construction of the flood channel through Hokersar but it was abandoned due to a dispute with Wildlife department who objected to it.
However, Lone said that the construction of flood channel through Hokersar will be done this year. “The dispute of the I&FC with Wildlife Department has been resolved and now we will start work on the construction of flood channel in Hokersar area”, he said.
The officer said that in the second phase of Flood Channel project, its bunds will be raised and strengthened to further increase its carrying capacity.
On dredging of river Jhelum, Lone said that it is a continuous process and it is more required in Sopore and Baramulla areas so that Wullar water gets drained quickly.  He, however, said that 10 million cubic meter dredging of Jhelum is going on and the Rs 46 Crore project will be completed by September this year. He said that department is procuring two dredgers for Jhelum dredging for which tenders have been floated.
The CE I&FC said that Jhelum bunds are strong enough to withhold upto 21 feet water level but beyond that there is threat of breaches.

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