- Fresh snowfall disrupts life, highway remains closed for 4th day
- Power Supply knocks out, Supply lines damaged at many places
- Work apace to restore electricity: PDD
- Many areas left inundated due to waterlogging
- SASE issues avalanche warning for higher reaches
- Minister says snow cleared from roads ‘in shortest possible time’
Fresh snowfall and rains disrupted normal life across Kashmir on Sunday while the Srinagar-Jammu highway continued to remain closed for traffic for the fourth straight day, even as local Meteorological department predicted more precipitation in next 24 hours.
The snow and rains started in Kashmir on Saturday evening and continued intermittently till 4 am on Sunday. MeT department officials said the higher reaches received heavy snowfall overnight while the plains received a mix of rain and snow.
MeT officials said Gulmarg in Baramulla district received 11-inch fresh snow, Kupwara 8-cm and Srinagar 61.6-mm mix of rain and snow. They said Qazigund and Kokernag recorded 82.8-mm and 41.2-mm mix of rain and snow, respectively.
“Machil, Gurez, Afferwat, Sadna Pass and some other higher reaches in Kashmir received fresh snowfall,” reports and witnesses said.
The fresh precipitation brought normal life to a halt in most parts of Kashmir, forcing people to prefer staying indoors. Scores of areas across Kashmir plunged into darkness since Saturday evening itself following start of rains and snowfall, reports said on Sunday.
In areas of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, roads leading to district headquarters remained closed due to fresh snowfall.
The snowfall resulted in water-logging in Srinagar and other towns of Kashmir.
MeT officials said they are expecting light to moderate rains and snow in next 24 hours. “The Western Disturbance is still active in region,” they said.
‘Highway Remained Closed’
The Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for the fourth consecutive day Sunday, officials said, adding that no vehicle would be allowed to ply on the thoroughfare on Monday.
“The road is closed for all types of traffic and there will be no traffic on Monday as well,” Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic/Rural), Fayaz Ahmad Lone told Kashmir Post.
He said in view of intermittent rains and snow and consequent landslides and shooting stones at Mehar, Seeri, Marog, Kela Moth, Barry Cheshma, Anookhifall, Digdol, Panthyal, Sherbibi and Chamalwas areas, no traffic either from Jammu or Srinagar shall be allowed on the highway on 06.02.2017 “keeping in view the security/safety of drivers/passengers.”
The SSP said keeping in view the prediction of more precipitation, concerned police officials shall ensure that no vehicles are parked between Jawahar Tunnel (South) to Nowgam village and between Jawahar Tunnel (North) to Lower Munda under any circumstances.
“These areas being dangerous and avalanche-prone zones should be kept free from any kind of traffic,” he said.
He said people are requested to contact Traffic Control Units on following numbers to know the status of highway: Srinagar (01942450022, 2485396), TCU Ramban (9419993745) and TCU Jammu (01912459048, 9419147732).
The air traffic at Srinagar ‘International’ Airport on Sunday was disrupted in the morning but resumed later. “Only two flights were cancelled,” an official said.
A medium-danger avalanche warning was again issued on Sunday for some avalanche-prone slopes of Jammu and Kashmir
Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) issued the warning that would be valid for the next 24 hours starting 5 pm on Sunday.
The SASE advisory said a “medium danger” warning is in place for avalanche-prone slopes in Kupwara, Bandipora, Anantnag, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Budgam, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
“People are advised not to move in avalanche-prone areas and further they are also advised to keep clearing the snow deposition from rooftop of their houses/bunkers to avoid damages,” it said, adding “Very light to light snowfall is likely to occur until tomorrow at some places in Jammu and Kashmir.”
MET officials said Srinagar registered a low of minus 0.7 degree Celsius, Pahalgam 0.2 degree Celsius, Qazigund 0.2 degree Celsius while Kokernag town minus 0.3 degree Celsius.
They said Leh town in Ladakh region registered a low of minus 3.3 degrees Celsius.
Snowfall In Ganderbal
Reports from Ganderbal said the district received moderate to heavy snowfall since Saturday evening. Reports said its higher areas including Sonamarg, Gagangeer, Kullan and Gund received about 1-2 ft fresh snow while plain received 2 to 5 inch snow.
Reports said electricity in several areas remained snapped since Saturday evening and was still to be restored till Sunday evening.
Locals said several interior roads were not cleared after the snowfall.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganai, on Sunday conducted a tour of different areas of the district to inspect snow clearance.
Snow Cleared: Veeri
Minister for Public Works, Abdul Rehman Veeri, on Sunday claimed that all major roads, lanes and by-lanes in Kashmir have been cleared of snow and made fit for vehicular and pedestrian movement “in the shortest possible time.”
He also called for employing coordinated efforts for resumption of all other essential services so that people don’t face any convenience, an official spokesman said.
“The Minister stated this while chairing a high level meeting here to take stock of post-snowfall scenario in Kashmir division. He directed the officials to be on toes and work with renewed vigour to provide immediate relief to people,” the spokesman said.
“The Minister appreciated the work done by officials of concerned Departments for ensuring clearance of roads with machines as well as manually and added that the zeal needs to be continued till the winter season is over. He also reviewed the working of Control Rooms established in various parts of Kashmir and asked officials to advertise the helpline numbers so that people can contact them in need.”
He directed the officials to undertake another round of snow clearance from roads and lanes where snow gets accumulated after falling from roofs. He directed the officials to employ tippers and other vehicles so that the accumulated snow is carried away and disposed off in open spaces.
Veeri also took note of water-logging problem in various areas and directed officials to seek help of Fire and Emergency Services and employ other resources too for dewatering purposes. He also sought quick resumption of electricity supply to areas where the network experienced any kind of fault.
Supply lines damaged at many places
The overnight snowfall caused widespread power outages and left many localities inundated across Kashmir. The valley has already been reeling under prolonged curtailment and unscheduled power cuts with the onset of winter.
Meanwhile, many areas were left inundated in the wake of fresh snowfall. Several areas of Srinagar city witnessed heavy water-logging much to the inconvenience of people.
In Srinagar, many areas were without electricity till late Sunday evening. In north Kashmir, locals complained of complete blackout since Saturday morning. Reports of power breakdown were also received from Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam districts of South Kashmir. Residents in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal villages also complained of prolonged power outages.
In many areas, power poles and transmission lines have been damaged due to snowfall. The essential line which supplies electricity to hospitals and other emergency services also witnessed fluctuation.
Chief Engineer, Power Development Department (PDD) Shehnaz Goni admitted power blackout in most parts of the valley. However, she assured that electricity will be restored till late Sunday evening.
“The snowfall has affected 33 kV supply lines in most parts of Kashmir. However, we are hopeful that power supply will be restored as our employees are on job to repair the damaged lines,” she told Kashmir Post.
PDD has failed to draw any schedule of power curtailment and the cuts are enforced with impunity at any time of the day. This is in violation of the earlier directions of the regulatory authority, State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SREC), which had sought prior notification of the load curtailment schedule. As per government records, power cuts have increased in non-metered areas this year in comparison to the last year. Residents of metered areas have also complained about prolonged curtailment due to which most areas grope in darkness in evening hours.
Authorities have often blamed the poor power scenario in the valley to the burgeoning transmission and distribution losses. In its bid to curb power theft, PDD carried out 7065 inspections across Kashmir in the month of December alone, recovering fine of Rs 1.36 crore from the offenders. PDD has also snapped power supply to industrial consumers in the evening hours. Earlier, industrial load was put off for two hours from 8-10 pm which has now been increased to 4 hours from 6-10 pm after January 9.
Even as government has said it is reviewing the curtailment schedule on regular basis, members of opposition National Conference (NC) recently alleged that PDD was ignoring Kashmir as the power portfolio is held by Deputy Chief Minister, Nirmal Singh, who drew an ire for his recent remarks that he was a “ proud RSS man”.
Protests have been held across Kashmir over frequent load shedding. As per government data, the average power curtailment in a week is between 40 to 60 hours. Last year the curtailment was 37 hours and 63 hours in metered and non-metered areas respectively.
In reply to the cut motion by MLA Shamima Firdous about the reasons for frequent load shedding in Kashmir, PDD blamed people.
“In view of the uncontrolled use of load by consumers, there are times while the aggregate load increases to the level which is beyond the handling capacity of local grid station. If the consumers adhere to their registered consumer load, department would ensure reliable power supply,’’ read the government reply.