Friday, October 17, 2014

Restoration after Andhra and Kashmir floods

Cyclone Hudhud’s fury left behind much more damage than Kashmir, on account of much higher levels of infrastructure in Andhra.   In Kashmir, the scariest issue was border security.
Thankfully, Andhra and its tech minded CM Naidu are  gung ho about planned rebuilding to stave off future havoc from the annual cyclones, taking essential services and communications underground and minus that massive glass fronts that only smash or heat up in crises.
India’s long experience in disaster management recently evolved into a ‘science’. When a warning translates into  people in low lying areas evacuated into temporary quarters in municipal schools on higher ground.  These are poor sections with few possessions, bundles as precious as their little ones. Food packet preparation is galvanized; ditto vaccination shots etc.  Its all part of the drill.   The almost annual uprooting means that every one, but everyone’s aspiration is to somehow own a pucca house.
Exceptions are the fisherfolk whose assets are their boats and nets which are worth a small fortune to them – hence many refuse to leave them for fear of theft.  Yes, disasters do tend to bring out the worst of humanity too. Perhaps that is why so many Kashmiris refused rescue.

Why then were the papers and media so full of the floods in Kashmir for weeks?  Many still are!                           Why?                               Guess what?
In the Kashmir Valley, the poor affected were outnumbered by the middle class and rich who make more noise.  Do we see any pictures of tumble down kaccha houses collapsed? Or of the damage to the houseboats and the shikaras which played their role in rescue too?
Media was dominated by muck filled bungalows of elite areas of Srinagar, damages quoted in double digits of lakhs and crores at each. These people can not be rehabilitated with a government dole, food packets, vaccinations and some materials to rebuilt their homes!  They need a whole lot more – hence the noise. 
Unfortunately most post reek of offense over rescue or help from neighbors, rather than some government official.          My dear country people, we have to help each other. Long before any govt. fellow comes along, it is the next door neighbor who extends a helping hand.  A Gujarati saying: “Pahelo sago to Padosi”…the neighbor is the first relative.

Meanwhile while waiting for government funds to kick in, let’s start our own Operation Clean Up.  It could just generate more jobs for the poor to put all those beautiful houses and gardens back in order.  But the Valley will definitely regain its glory; after all, every other part of India does it too, in fairly quick order. Leh was flooded in 2010; it sprang back.

It is very sad that the Valley had to suffer from the inability to get over the craze of concrete constructions to showcase ‘development’.  That shut off all run offs and the pressure meant the embankments gave way, flooding the city, including the elite pride of Srinagar.

Disaster offers improved cities as will happen in Andhra… essentials and communications to be taken underground and new buildings minus those explosive glass fronts. Incisive restoration planning is needed. Witness: bombed Berlin, restored to pre World War exquisite architecture.
That will only happen when the community joins hands with the government, meaning Kashmir with Ladakh and Jammu which comprise the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Some quick advance planning to create recycle old assets into brand new ones would work wonders in setting the state on its feet again.   
May be, just maybe, that new religious tourism circuit, with Islamic shrines, Buddhist ones which would get Japanese support and Hindu ones, such as Vaishno Devi and the Nanda temples all receiving  tourists to fill the state coffers, if plans are drawn up quickly before the status quo-ists win the day and the relief monies.

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