For me, conflict notwithstanding, flying into Srinagar, over the saffron fields in full bloom with the snow capped Himalayas in the background, has never failed to rejuvenate
This trip was different, it all started with a phone call on the 5th of September – Kashmir was on the verge of being flooded. That’s OK I thought, we have flood channels and
relief strategies that have worked for years and this would be no different – WRONG! The next few days exposed years of environmental mismanagement and the underlying political vacuum in the state. The effects were exacted as the wrath of nature ensued Kashmir, bearing testimony to the scale of wide spread devastation that was about to fall upon the land and her people.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir, on both sides of the Line of Control, was hit by unprecedented floods between 5 to 8 September 2014. The estimated 27 Cloud bursts and torrential rainfall resulted in major rivers banks breaking, including the River Jhelum. The streets in the capital city, Srinagar, remained under up to 20 feet (7 meters) of water for nearly a month and by 24 September, six out of the seven major hospitals in Srinagar were submerged leaving one referral hospital to cater to the needs of the entire population (estimated at 4 million). Thousands of villages were inundated; tens of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, more than a million people displaced or homeless. The psychological toll on the people is immeasurable, surpassing that of the physical effects.
With the already fragile infrastructure destroyed, hospitals, schools, shops, crops, business establishments and local administrative units have all been badly damaged and thousands have lost everything. The toll it has taken on the economy is estimated as $16 billion which, when compared to the state’s Gross Domestic Product of $12 billion, makes for a staggering loss.
With winter fast approaching, thousands are still in desperate need of food, shelter and rehabilitation of their livelihood. According to an independent estimate, immediate humanitarian aid of $350 million is required to cater for the devastation that is only predicted to continue to grow in severity. The international relief efforts are mainly the work of the Kashmiri diaspora and social media fundraising. No major international NGOs are currently conducting relief operations on the ground and there is a desperate need for relief reaching the affected people, as soon as possible.
In response to this, the Australian Kashmiri Association Inc. (AKA) is seeking to foster and advocate partnerships between International charity and non-government organisations in Australia and local non-government organisations (NGOs) on the ground in Kashmir. The Australians for Revive Kashmir (ARK) project, an initiative of AKA, is focused on providing immediate relief and long-term assistance in rehabilitation and rebuilding of Kashmir. Given the magnitude of the disaster, ARK aims to organise relief efforts for the devastated region and raise awareness about the humanitarian disaster. The harsh winter starting in December 2014 is of particular concern as the survivors are not equipped well enough to cope with the severe winter conditions.
For further information, or to donate to this cause, please visit www.kashmir.org.au