Wetland Destruction, Illegal Encroachments Triggering Kashmir Floods

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With the threat of another floods looming large in Kashmir valley this season the biggest question, that is talk of town is that how Valley of Kashmir has been literally converted into a flood zone with even normal rains that too in month of March which is a no-flood month.  .

Pertinently, the answer does not seem simple as the overall environmental scenario is quiet awful as Valley of Kashmir has  lost several precious environmental resources. Over the past few decades, Kashmir  lost a majority of wetlands and lakes. The phenomenon of deforestation has increased. Illegal encroachments have worsened the matters.

Painfully Enough,  by display of the selfish attitude by masses and successive inefficient governments , Kashmir has  lent a great blow to its  natural resources and as a result today according to experts the calamities like floods are thus becoming a normality.

According to many environmental watchers, Wetlands destruction is one of the main reason behind recurring Kashmir floods as wetlands form an vital part of our ecosystem. Wetlands perform multiple function as they  can decrease flooding , remove pollutants from water , recharge groundwater, protect shorelines, provide habitat for wildlife , and perform other various important functions.

 

Beautiful Valley of Kashmir is bestowed with large number of impressive wetlands like HAIGAM RAKH, MIRGUND WETLAND, SHALBUGWETLAND:

The Wetland International(NetherLands)  an International organization and authority on wetlands describe in their report the worth of wetlands of Kashmir as under,” The Kashmir Valley with an average elevation of 1600 amsl is dotted with wetlands, which play an enormous role in maintaining the hydrological regimes of the entire valley. There are varied assessments on the extent of wetlands within the valley owing to difference in interpretation of definition of wetlands. The present assessments ranging from 236.5 sq km (Space Application Center, 1998) – 256 sq km ( NationalWetland Inventory, Salim Ali Center for Ornithology, 2001) , are significantly underestimated considering the comprehensive definition of wetlands on hydrological basis. But destruction of these wetlands has lead to environmental havoc.

Commenting on this abject reality, Junaid Khan, an activist states – “ The recent flood disaster in kashmir is undeniably a result of extreme rainfall. But this is not entire story. The loss of forests, wide spread illegal construction on agriculture land and earth/filling of water bodies has decreased water retention and increased flash floods and landslides (Due to deforestation ) across the state. As a result, heavy rainfall may turn into disastrous flooding with in hours. Destruction o wetlands has worsened the matters for us. The illegal encroachments and construction in Dal and other lakes causes water level to ris and lakes cant bear the continuous spell of rain and same water overflows causing  fear and destruction. More than 30% of wetlands in kashmir valley have been encroached upon or severally damaged. The construction there is mainly due to commercial activities. Take example of of biggest lake “wular” It has once spread across 20000 hectares, it now remains restricted to 2400 hectares.

 

According to expert opinion , Dal Lake, Anchar Lake, Manasbal and Wular Lake are some of the larger wetlands of the basin. Extensive marshes have been also formed in lower areas through catchment drainages, particularly between Srinagar and Sopore Rakh Asham, Naugam, Malgam, are some of the major marshes of the valley, but unfortunately  a big portion of which has been drained and reclaimed for agriculture and settlement”.

 

Hilal Alvi, An environmental watcher states – “ Wetlands have immense importance as they function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters. Trees, root mats, and other wetland vegetation also slow the speed of flood waters and distribute them more slowly over the floodplain. This combined water storage an braking action lowers flood heights and reduces erosion. We  need to remember that  Wetlands within and downstream of urban areas are particularly valuable, counteracting the greatly increased rate and volume of surface- water runoff from pavement and buildings. The holding capacity of wetlands helps control floods and prevents water logging of crops. Preserving and restoring wetlands

But currently the Wetlands in Kashmir are facing multi-dimensional threats “Taken as a whole, it is estimated that the aggregate value of services generated by wetlands throughout the world is $4.9 trillion per year (Costanza et al. 1997). Wetlands are integral part of environment. Wetlands are an important part of Kashmir environment but they have been continuously   facing many  problems including siltation, eutrophication and unabated encroachments of agricultural land. Natural and artificial fertilizers extensively used on adjacent agricultural lands enter the wetland resulting greatly in increased  rate of eutrophication and threatening wetlands. Steps should be taken to save our valuable wetlands from looming disasters than only we can safeguard overselves from calamities like floods .”

Illegal Encroachments over the past few decades have become a norm in Kashmir and have lent death blow to the fragile environmental zones and aggravated the situation further. While on one hand these illegal encroachments have choked rivers and flood channels on the otherhand, rational voices are also worried that Large scale encroachment of Wullar, Hokera & Narkara Wetlands for residential colonies is also posing a danger to migratory birds.

Overwhelming opinion on ground is that Wetland Destruction, Illegal Encroachments are undoubtedly triggering Kashmir floods.

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