Restoration of river Jhelum has hit a roadblock as authorities have failed to take measures for removal of encroachments from its banks.
Encroachments dot the river embankments at various places in the summer capital. In absence of any regulation, many hutments have come up on river banks at Pandrethan, Pampore, Chattabal and Qamarwari and its adjoining areas.
“These hutments not only affect aesthetic beauty of Jhelum but also weaken its embankments. In case of rise in the river’s water level, there is risk that adjoining habitations can be submerged,” said an environmentalist.
Though the government in 2005 had launched a beautification drive of Jhelum banks on the three km stretch from Shivpora to Dubji Ghat (Maisuma), authorities have failed to extend it to other areas of the river.
Originating from Verinag in south Kashmir, Jhelum spans over 175 sq Kms— meandering in a serpentine way from south to north Kashmir via Srinagar. “It seems authorities have not learnt any lessons from last year’s devastating floods. The authorities are sitting on removal of these encroachments and increasing Jhelum’s carrying capacity,” said a group of residents of Batwara.
The Irrigation and Flood Control department in 2014 issued notices to the encroachers asking them to remove the illegal structures on Jhelum banks at Jawahar Nagar, Raj Bagh and adjoining localities. However, no measure has been taken to implement the orders.
The illegal structures have also come up on Jhelum banks near Cement Bridge, Chattabal and Habba Kadal. Experts said that unless carrying capacity of Jhelum is not increased, flood threat will always loom over Kashmir.
An official of Irrigation and Flood Control department said “we have several times launched drives to remove encroachments from Jhelum banks. However, due to political interference we had to shelve it.”