After Floods, Valley Braces For Fast Plummeting Temperatures

26 September 2014
DNA
Ishfaq-ul-Hassan

Srinagar: After floods, harsh winter stares at the homeless in the paradise. Official estimates reveal that 2,34,516 structures including houses, government offices and business establishments have been damaged in the floods across the state barring Srinagar, which is the worst hit district where losses are still being ascertained. Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS) has put the number of houses damaged or washed away at three lakh causing losses worth Rs30,000 crore at the rate of Rs10 lakh per damaged household. Lakhs of people have been left homeless after their houses either collapsed or suffered damages beyond repair. With winter approaching and temperature plummeting fast, the homeless are left in lurch. 'Where will we go? Our house has developed cracks. People have cautioned us not to live there but we have no alternative. We need a roof on our heads,' said Manzoor Ahmad of Chattabal. Kashmir's winter is long and grueling and the chill lasts for as many as six months with temperatures plummeting to minus five degrees Celsius. One needs woolens and Kangris with burning charcoal to keep warm. But things have been washed away by the floods along with homes. 'I had a store full of charcoal for winter. But waters have swept away everything. We tried to buy charcoal to replenish stocks but the rates have skyrocketed. A quintal of charcoal is selling at Rs 3,500,' said Haseena Nazir, a homemaker at Bilal Colony. The damage seems colossal in every affected area in Kashmir; more so in and around the famed Dal Lake where many houses made of un-baked and half-baked bricks has collapsed. Jammu and Kashmir government has announced a compensation Rs75,000 for the fully damaged houses and Rs20,000 and Rs10,000 for partially damaged houses. 'Even if there are houses which look unaffected from outside can be dangerous to live. Most of the old houses have been made in mud and they have developed cracks which could endanger the lives,' said Parvez Ahmad, a structural engineer. Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the residential houses in the Valley are built at a cost much higher than other parts of the country in view of limited working season available before the onset of winter. 'It is imperative that Central Government agrees to the extra ordinary funds for the reconstruction of the fully damaged and partially damaged houses by the affected families,' said Omar.