We all know how devastating the Kashmir flood was. It would take years for life to get back to normal. Srinagar flood is a unique tragedy in many ways. It was the first such tragedy in that part of the world and it has destroyed the economic nerve centre of the summer capital Srinagar. All the economic hubs from Lalchowk to Karanagar to Rambagh were destroyed in one go. All the business apex bodies and other relevant bodies have placed the loss caused to Kashmir economy in crores. Thousands of houses have been destroyed. Scores of precious lives were lost in these floods. The main sector of Kashmir economy i.e., tourism sector has been completely destroyed by the recent floods. The other important sector of Kashmir economy i.e., horticulture sector has also been dented badly by these floods. Education is also in a shambles as many schools have been destroyed and scores of flood hit children have lost even their books and school bags in these brutal floods. More than 20,000 schoolchildren have lost their school bags.
I was on my way to teach in a school which lies on the way to Srinagar, and I had a narrow escape. The rescue operation saw army leading and the Kashmir youth following the path to help the needy. A study recently done stated that 96% rescue was carried out by the local Kashmir youth. I happened to communicate with Rameez Makhdhoomi, journalist from Srinagar, who said that the Army is praised by many for commendable rescue in Jawahirnagar and Rajbagh, while they are criticised in areas like Maisuma and Lalchowk by many for what they say is bias.
From Boulevard to Rambagh, the area housing thousands of business establishments is now rubble. In addition, many houses will fall like pack of cards after the water level recedes as water has stayed for too long in houses. The most cruel aspect is that many people have lost both residence as well as shops on account of floods putting them in trying circumstances.
Rescue operation saw helicopters dropping essential and much needed food items and water bottles at many places during hard and harsh days of this epic flooding which was appreciated by many. At some places helicopters had to face angry crowds with people alleging they were dropping expired food items.
Jammu and Kashmir government said the preliminary assessment of cumulative losses due to floods in the state was in excess of Rs 1,00,000 crore. Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hasan Mir stated recently that agriculture sector suffered heavy losses due to devastating floods in Kashmir Valley. He said that the sector incurred a loss of Rs 37 billion while the paddy crops spread on 3 lakh hectares were damaged due to flood fury across the State. The floods have caused a loss of Rs 1,000 crore to the apple crop in Kashmir, this could signal doom of horticulture sector in Kashmir as apple is the mainstay of Kashmir horticulture economy. The entire state which would have been celebrating Eid is now under trauma to get their broken life back together.
The floods have even caused blow to Kashmir higher education where the losses made the students leave the state as well. Most of the colleges are still non-functional and rebuilding of entire building will take some months. I happened to meet some college kids who were heading back to Delhi from Ladakh, where they were stuck in college with no food for one day.
While the water might have receded, the tourism industry in Kashmir is staring at a huge loss of around Rs. 500 crore during this festive season, claim industry insiders. On my journey back to Ladakh, I came across many tourists returning and cancelling their trip due to losses. The State will definitely see 95% cancellation on all the future booking till next year as tourists would want to escape from any kind of water disease as well.
The difficult part of this flood would be the hard winter, when the refugee camps wouldn’t be enough for families to keep them warm, and might have to face the cold wind in the open, where I think fabricated and good tents should help them. Many families haven’t done any insurance on their property which might be of issue while claiming some cash during emergency need.
Since nature is never predictable , we should all make an effort to support the J&K relief fund by contributing something and be part of the future human race.
Photos by: Rameez Makhdhoomi