The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a unique geographical location. It is distinct from rest of the states in terms of topography, climate, economy and social setting. It is one of the most vulnerable states of India.The State experiences various types of disasters that inflict serious damage to life and property of the effected people; destroy the infrastructure, set-back the development process and upset the budgetary provisions. Such events not only disrupt economic activity but also cause immense hardship to the affected population. The state has a long history of disasters and has always paid heavily in terms of loss of life and property. It would not be wrong to call J&K as the ‘Multi-Hazard Prone’ State.
Hazards like earthquakes, floods, avalanches, fires, cloudbursts, droughts, wind Storms, landslides and road accidents often convert into disasters leading to loss of lives and property. The geographical and Geological location of J&K is such that a major disaster is always round the corner. 10% area of the state covering the districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Baramullah, Kupwara, Bandipora, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar; where 50% of the population of the state lives come under Seismic zone V(the highest seismic Zone). Rest of the 90% of the state including whole of Ladakh and Jammu are under seismic Zone V. Who can forget the fateful day of October 8th 2005 when a devastating earthquake of 7.6 magnitude created havoc, claming 953 lives in J&K (and more than 80,000 lives in Pok) and effecting infrastructure worth crores.It was one of the deadliest and destructive earthquakes in the history of the subcontinent.It not only effected the people physically but also left a deep scare on the emotional well being of the people.
Earthquakes have always made their presence felt in the Himalayan Belt.Last year results of a new study were published online by the Geological Society Of America Bulletin which read that the Reasi fault is one of the main active faults in Kashmir and the fault has been building up pressure for some time, suggesting that when it does release or “slip”, the resulting earthquake may be large-as much as magnitude 8.0 or greater. So a state which lies entirely in seismic zone IV and V,the warning of a 8.0 magnitude earthquake or greater should not be surprising at all.Earthquakes and other disasters are a phenomenon,which cannot be prevented altogether but a certain amount of advance planning can mitigate related sufferings.
Low-lying areas of Kashmir valley along with some parts of Jammu and upper catchments of all the tributaries of the Jhelum, Indus, and Chenab and Tawi rivers are prone to floods. The widespread devastation and destruction caused by Sept,2014 floods is still fresh in our memory.Thousands of people were trapped in their houses for days without food and water.Around 2600 villages were effected,among these 390 villages were completely submerged in water.Around 500 people lost their lives.Unprecedented rainfall(at many places it rained more than 200-mm in 24 hours-400% more than the monthly average),unmanageable and unplanned urbanization,lack of preparedness,negligence,poor drainage system and enchroachment of waterbodies especially the river Jhelum(vastly reducing the rivers drainage capacity) were the main reasons behind the devastating flood.It was a natural disaster accentuated by human failure,it exposed the gaping holes in the administration’s preparedness for crises management.This does not end here ,Most climate models predict that india will be hit more and more by extreme rainfall events as the world continues to warm in the coming decades. The other worrying factor is the increasing number of road accidents.Road accidents occur everywhere in the world but the overwhelming increase in number of road accidents is Jammu and Kashmir is worrisome.Among the Indian states J&K tops in road fatalities, a high number of them occurring on Hilly roads especially in Doda, Rambhan, Rajouri, Reasi, Poonch, Kishtwar, Zojila, Kargil, Leh etc. Nearly 2500 people lost their lives in 2014-15.
Landslides, slippery roads, avalanches, rock fall are mainly responsible for a high number of accidents on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Higher reaches of Kashmir including Anantnag, Kulgam, Gurez, Kargil, Leh, Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar, Banihal etc are avalanche prone areas. The areas particularly Rambhan, Banihal, Leh, Kishtwar, Dawar, Gurez etc are Landslide prone. Windstorms and Hailstorms destroying crops, horticulture and rooftops of houses have almost become an annual event here.The leh cloudburst and Flashfloods of August 2016, cloudburst at Baaggar (Doda), Snow Blizzard at Waltengu (Kulgam) are a few examples of these types of disasters.Disasters and J&K have an everlasting relationship.
Having seen enough destruction from time to time and being prone to almost each and every type of a disaster, there are some serious question that we need to ask ourselves; Are we prepared? Are we doing enough to mitigate the impact of these disasters and What lessons have we learnt from the past disasters, because every time a disaster strikes we are caught wanting and unprepared. It is very hard to prevent a disaster but with effective preparedness and preventive measures, disaster management capabilities at local and state levels and investment in research the loss can be minimized.
Preparedness is an effective way of lessening the impact of disasters, which occur on a small as well as large scale.Disaster exposes the vulnerability of individuals and communities wherein their lives are threatened and destruction caused to the communities property, infrastructure etc.This brings out the significance of disaster preparedness mechanisms and processes to neutralise and reduce the vulnerability of people and minimise loss of lives and property. A culture of Prevention needs to be installed in all communities and amongst disaster managers.This requires active involvement of all groups of socity, national, international organizations, governments and private organizations.
Early warnings and conscious developmental planning are the key elements of preventive planning.Mitigation of disasters needs appropriate dissemination of information to the people with to educating them about potential hazards and ways of reducing them.This involves training of government officials, elected representatives, local government members, youth, children and different sectors of community.There is an urgent need of effective administration which is the heart of development. Any systematic effort towards disaster management must be preceded or coupled with efforts, to make the functioning of government machinery more effective.No system of government can survive without a good system of disaster management.