Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, Saturday reviewed the progress of ongoing dredging of river Jhelum from Anantnag to Baramulla in a high-level meeting held at SKICC, here today.
This was the first review meeting of the Irrigation & Flood Control Department which was chaired by Mehbooba Mufti after taking over as the Chief Minister of the state.
During the meeting, the Chief Minister was briefed about ‘’Dredging as a Component of Flood Mitigation’, which is part of the Comprehensive Plan for Flood Management Works on Jhelum, Phase I, recently sanctioned by the Central Government at a cost of Rs.399.29 crore.
Minister for PHE, Ch. Sham Lal Minister of State for Haj & Auqaf (IC), PHE, I&FC and I&C, Syed Farooq Ahmad Andrabi, Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Commissioner / Secretary, PHE, I&FC, Rohit Kansal, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Hassan Samoon, IGP Kashmir Zone, SJM Gillani, Chief Engineer, I&FC, Kashmir, Javed Jaffar and Chief Engineer, PHE, Kashmir, G. M. Bhat attended the meeting.
Mehbooba Mufti noted with serious concern the extremely slow pace of work by Kolkata-based Reach Dredgers, which has been tasked with mechanical dredging of 16,00,000 cum along the Srinagar and Baramulla stretches of river Jhelum. She emphasized that weekly timelines be fixed to ensure that ongoing dredging works are carried out speedily so as to relieve the people from perpetual fear of floods that grips them during heavy rains.
“People have already waited for a long time and any further delay in dredging work will be totally unacceptable,” the Chief Minister stated.
Presently, two master dredgers engaged by Reach Dredgers are carrying out mechanical dredging at Shivpora and Sopore. However, only 2000 cum dredging of Jhelum has been carried out since the work as allotted to the firm, the Chief Minister was informed.
The Chief Minister also asked the Divisional Commissioner to issue directions to concerned Deputy Commissioners to provide support to I&FC Department in speeding up dredging in their respective districts.
She also passed instructions to Chief Engineer I&FC to immediately commence work on those stretches of land which have been retrieved from the encroachers.
The Chief Minister was informed by the Commissioner / Secretary PHE, I&FC that the dredging of river Jhelum has been divided into two components.
In the first component, carried out by the department itself, around 9,50,000 cum dredging has been done, which has also generated a revenue of Rs.3.5 crore. In the second phase, a target of 16,00,000 cum has been fixed for Kolkata-based Research Dredgers for mechanical dredging of the river.
On the end-use of dredged out material, the Divisional Commissioner informed the Chief Minister that part of it will be utilized for earth-filling of the Rakh-e-Arth Colony where Dal dwellers are being rehabilitated as well as the Central University at Ganderbal.
The Commissioner / Secretary explained that mechanical dredging would continue round-the-year even during rains and irrespective of the changes in the levels of water in the Jhelum. It was given out that the carrying capacity of the river has been increased to 45,000 cusecs from 33,000 cusecs previously.
The Chief Minister was informed that I&FC Department will require another project for mechanical dredging to increase the carrying capacity of Jhelum to 60,000 cusecs.
A component of Rs.34 crore has been fixed for dredging of the river while as Rs.75 crore will be spent for strengthening of river embankments and spillover channels under Flood Management Works on Jhelum Phase I costing Rs.399.29 crore.
The mitigation plans for river Jhelum also envisage rapid dewatering facilities in urban areas, adequate emergency response, additional flood spill channel, creation of storage for various tributaries, developing and enhancing the capacity of Wullar Lake, flood plain zoning, solid / waste management and afforestation.
On the instructions given by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed regarding beautification of Jhelum riverfront from Zero Bridge to Chattabal Wier during his city tours, Mehbooba Mufti was informed that nearly 70 per cent of works have been completed while the remaining 30 per cent will be completed over the next one month.
Some of these works include illumination of Jhelum banks, toe-walling at Chattabal Wier, sprucing up of Basant Bagh Park, removing encroachments near Wazir Bagh and handing over of the Jhelum Park near Old Zero Bridge from I&FC to the Floriculture Department.
Minister for PHE, I&FC and Minister of State for PHE, I&FC also addressed the meeting and thanked the Chief Minister for holding the review at such short notice.
Earlier, the Chief Engineer gave a brief overview of the long-term and short-term measures required for dredging of river Jhelum and its outflow channels.
He also dwelt at length on the river trajectory post 2014 floods in a powerpoint presentation. He explained to the Chief Minister the critical components of DPR for ‘Priority Works for Comprehensive Plan for Flood Management Works on Jhelum Phase I costing Rs.399.29 crore which has been carved out of the main project for ‘Comprehensive Plan for Flood Management Works on Jhelum costing Rs.2083 crore.