Kashmir Floods
Flood waters rage across a temple in KashmirReuters

The devastating floods in Jammu & Kashmir, the worst to have hit the state in nearly 60 years, may have been a man-made disaster and a natural calamity in equal parts, with reports suggesting that warnings issued by the weather department were ignored.

The India Meteorological Department had issued warnings of 'very heavy rainfall' in the state from 2 September that would last for several days. In its seasonal rainfall map, it was also evident that Jammu & Kashmir had received excess rainfall to reach 558 mm by 6 September compared to just 308 mm on 3 September, another blaring warning.

This, however, did not translate into swift action by the government to assess the warning and rehabilitate those in low-lying areas, thus leaving thousands at the mercy of unforgiving floods, rains and landslides. Only a few families moved to higher grounds, and the state failed to ensure everyone was moved from flood-prone areas before they were submerged.

The Central Water Commission (CWC) also failed to issue a flood alert to the state

"The CWC's flood forecast list on September 6, 2014, has 18 level forecasts and eight inflow forecasts, but none from J&K," Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People told Hindustan Times. The CWC's defence was that it did not have a flood forecasting station in the state.

But there seems to be a bigger human hand in the flood crisis than just the callous state of affairs, and it smacks of a story similar to that of the Uttarakhand floods of 2013.

The Uttarkahand floods were, of course, much more devastating in terms of the death toll, with almost 5,000 killed in the disaster, but the main cause for it assuming a mammoth scale was deforestation for construction.

Authorities have, however, failed to learn any lesson from that disaster. 

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment told NDTV that the Jammu and Kashmir floods also have a "similar pattern" to that of the Uttarakhand floods, and experts cited unplanned urbanisation, deforestation and erratic monsoons as the culprits behind both back-to-back disasters.

While hundreds and thousands of lives have been lost in the two floods, it is hoped that any such calamity is averted next monsoon based on the faith that the government and authorities will finally take responsibility. 

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