February 2008 News

After Spate Of Natural Disasters, State Finds Out Itís Ill-equipped

27 February 2008
The Indian Express

Jammu: Heavy snowfall, avalanches and subsequent damage to infrastructure is not new for Jammu and Kashmir. Though the intensity of the damage varies, year after year, the state witnesses a pathetic condition of roads due to massive snowfall. In 2005, besides heavy snowfall, the state also suffered an earthquake that left hundreds dead, thousands injured. Today, the state Government remains far from being prepared to handle natural calamities and provide adequate relief to the people. These days as snow is melting and thereís an imminent threat of floods, the state Government, instead of taking protective measures, is struggling to restore infrastructure that got damaged due to snowfall. Moreover, no relief has been announced for the people. The official figures state that the stateís mechanical engineering department had only four snow cutters and 38 snow clearance machines to deal with the situation. Officials admit that to an extent the damage to the roads was caused while removing snow through non-conventional methods like using tippers. The matter was raised during the visit of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. State officials emphasised the need for financial support to get new machines. The Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir had even sought additional resources which, according to him, the state would need to manage floods after the snow melted. To restore damaged infrastructure and to equip itself for such situations, the administration has pinned all hopes on the Centre. And Sonia Gandhi had assured them to take up the matter with Union ministries. In the current season, while officials claim to have restored internal road links, water and power supply in all the snow-hit areas, many places in Marwah, Dachan and Warwan in Kishtwar district of Jammu region remain inaccessible from district headquarters. In Doda district, the road link to villages like Chatha and Ludna, with a population of 6,000 people, is yet to be restored, while people at Drub village are still without power. Reports coming from many places indicate shortage of ration. The situation is no different in the Valley. Electric poles and water supply lines, which were damaged due to snow, require replacement. Admitting that problems persist, officials said though internal roads have been restored in Doda and Kishtwar districts, people found it difficult to walk through the snow to collect foodgrain stocked in nearby areas. The administration is currently busy compiling details on damage and is hoping that the Centre will financially help them to be better equipped in the future.

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