Ishfaq Hussain Malik

Geography, Lovely Professional University India
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Ethnographic account of flooding in North-Western Himalayas: a study of Kashmir Valley

Narratives, human experiences, life histories and stories are powerful tools to understand a social phenomenon. Different kinds of pandemics and disasters create different types of stories and experiences. The human response to disasters seems to be generating or at least permitting an increase in property losses, especially in societies where economic growth is rapid and modern technology is spreading fast. Some hazards are created by persistent inhabitance of dangerous areas or by alteration of land or water, while others are exacerbated by efforts to reduce the risk. The disasters adversely affect societies but also give rise to heroic stories of survival and resilience. The North-Western Himalayan region is prone to several kinds of disasters like floods, earthquakes, landslides etc. One of the most disaster prone regions in North-Western Himalayas is Kashmir Valley. Kashmir Valley has witnessed several disastrous floods in the last century but the most disastrous flood in the recent history of the Union Territory is the September 2014 flood which affected all the aspects of life and resulted into death of 277 people. It also witnessed floods in 2015, 2017 and most recently in 2019 but they were not as devastating as the 2014 flood. The present study gives the ethnographic account of the recent floods in Kashmir Valley with special focus on 2014 flood. It gives account of the devastating loss and suffering of people due to the floods. The present ethnographic study goes deeper into understanding narratives of people, their experiences of the floods, account of several survival stories, the politics involved in relief and rescue, history of the people of Kashmir, the meaning behind the narratives and the meaning of belonging and communitarianism. It also provides insight into vulnerability of different classes of people to floods.

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