At a time when the department of Public Health Engineering, Irrigation and Flood Control is yet to start desilting process of water bodies after a year of devastating floods, the PHE department is all set to spend Rs 13 lakh on half marathon.
In collaboration with leading FM radio channel, 92.7 BIG FM, PHE department is organizing the first ever ‘international’ half marathon on September 13 “to promote sports and healthy lifestyle” in the Valley.
“The total expenditure of the event is around Rs 13 lakh. It is the first marathon of its kind in the Valley organized on such a large scale,” sources in the PHE department told .
However, the move has been seen as wastage of money especially at a time when the priority of the department should have been to start the dredging and desilting of water bodies.
“One year has passed since the floods but no affirmative action has been taken to start massive dredging or desilting. How come government has money for ‘Revival Day’ and marathon but not for the priority works like desilting of river Jhelum,” Asif Ahmad Mir of Shivpora said.
The devastating floods in Kashmir last month have extensively silted up river Jhelum and its spill channels hampering smooth flow of waters. A report prepared by the department of Environment and Remote Sensing had recommended immediate de-siltation programme for river Jhelum and its tributaries.
“Jhelum can cater to 45,000 cusecs from current 25000-30000 cusecs,” report says.
Incessant rains in Kashmir led to abrupt rise in water levels of Jhelum in the first week of September last year, submerging habitations on both sides of its embankments.
“We are still living in a constant fear. The breaches in bunds have not been repaired but nobody seems bothered about its repair,” said Syed Altaf, a resident of Rajbagh.
On June 25, Minister for Irrigation and Flood Control, Sukhnandan Kumar had expressed concern over the tardy pace of dredging and asked the Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, to work out modalities for outsourcing the work.
Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood control department, Javed Jaffar said they have received the tenders for dredging and the work would start by this month.
“We are in a process of scrutinizing the tenders and work will start soon. Apart from that, desilting is going in some areas to increase the water carrying capacity of Jhelum,” Jaffar said.
On July 24, a parliamentary panel suggested to the state government that dredging/desilting of water bodies should be undertaken on war footing so that carrying/holding capacity of the water bodies could be enhanced.
However, locals allege that government is spending money on useless exercises and doing little work on ground.
“I fail to understand the need of holding a marathon at this point of time. People have still not been compensated for the losses incurred during floods and instead of helping them government is lavishly wasting money on useless events,” locals said.
The event titled ‘CCDU Big Kashmir Marathon’ carries prize money of around Rs 4-lakh rupees in the professional category for both men and women. The run is scheduled to be held from University of Kashmir, Hazratbal campus, on September 13, (Sunday), at 6:30 a.m.
Chief Engineer PHE, G M Bhat refused to make any comment. “I can’t talk about it. I don’t have the full details,” he said.
However, Commissioner Secretary, PHE, Irrigation & Flood Control, Parvez Malik said they are not the organizers but only one of the sponsors in the event.
“It is not our initiative we are just one of the sponsors like others. The event is for a noble cause so we decided to participate in it,” Malik said.
When asked about the money to be spent by the PHE, Malik said they have not finalized the amount yet.
The event is also supported by Srinagar Municipality Corporation, Department of Tourism, J&K Armed Police and National Health Mission along with some private sectors.