It is March in Kashmir and sun is shining with full pace
rejoicing people, but despairing experts. Apart from very less snowfall this
winter, it has struck fear among the people and experts that agriculture activities
might be impacted this season which contributes major part of economy in
The fourty day long Chilai Kalan (harsh wintry days) which was expected to receive highest snowfall has not received a single flake of snow. Kashmir has witnessed the hottest day in February in 76 years as mercury roses to 20.6 degree Celsius on 24th February that is almost 10 degree Celsius above normal.
Flowers have started blooming indicating early arrival of spring. All these above developments are serious concerns as it is an outcome of climate change. From many decades Kashmir is showing signs of climate change as many winters either left without snowfall or there was very less snowfall.
Experts have agreed Kashmir is witnessing shift in weather pattern as identified by change in temperature, precipitations, winds and other indicators.
If this trend continues Kashmir, we can witness extreme weather conditions such as excessive rainfall, wintry summer, summer like winter, floods, unseasonal storms, droughts and cloud bursts. An International organisation ‘Action Aid’ in its climate change report on Kashmir has stated that Kashmir region has shown a rise of 1.42 degree Celsius and there is an average rise of 0.05 degree Celsius per year.
Another report prepared by the State’s Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing in 2013 claimed that average temperature in Kashmir has risen to 1.45 degree Celsius over two decades. As a result of rising temperatures in Kashmir, over the past 50 years hundreds of natural springs and streams have dried up, prompting people to encroach flood plains. The rise in normal temperature has resulted in shrinking of Himalayan glaciers.
The Kalahoi glacier spread over just a little above 11 sq kilometers has shrunk by 2.63 sq km in past three decades. Kalahoi glacier is shrinking 0.08 square Kilometers a year which is considered main source of water for Kashmir’s biggest river – River Jhelum and its many streams and lakes. Kashmir is witnessing a terrible change and it needs to be solved immediately.
Deforestation in catchment areas of rivers, unplanned constructions in flood plains, emission of green house gases and rampant dumping of garbage in rivers are considered to be main human causes behind climate change. Before some decades, the sloping hills in Kashmir have been covered with forest, but illegal tree harvesting and unplanned constructions denuded the area. The government may be spending ample amount to protect forest cover, but it is gets loose due to lack of proper planning. Deforestation and floods are closely co-related as trees hold water and soil firmly and help prevent flooding. So as forest thickness has reduced, very little rainfall washes soil and silt into river beds thus decreasing its carrying capacity. During the past decades, deforestation in Jhelum basin led to excessive siltation in most of lakes and water bodies in Kashmir. An official statement of forest department reads that Kashmir once possessed 50.97 percent forests stretching from the lower valleys high up into mountain passes right to edge of massive glaciers. These forests provide a balanced habitat for the wild life of Kashmir and are essential for a balanced eco-system. According to report prepared by Indian Metrological Department, deforestation has caused 35 percent decrease in monsoon and 10 percent in snow annually in Kashmir. The government can do much to address these climate challenges, which are daunting. It can be done by passing more stringent laws on deforestation and implementing them strictly.
Unplanned construction is also one of the prime factors responsible for climate change in Kashmir. These constructions are illegal as well. Kashmir is without any Master Plan to guide constructional activities and avoid illegal and unplanned construction. The illegal and unplanned constructions are being witnessed in every nook and corner of Kashmir thus choking natural springs, streams and rivers.
From Anantnag to Srinagar many Residential colonies are being built upon flood plains of Jhelum. Human encroachment and tourism activity has reduced Dal Lake to one-sixth of its original size from around 75 sq. Km to 12 sq. Km. Since 1911, Srinagar city has lost more than 50 percent of its water bodies because of unplanned urbanisation. Kashmir has witnessed massive unplanned constructions, most of which have been built on agricultural land. Rivers, lakes, and wetlands have also been encroached. A report prepared by Jammu Kashmir’s Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing has also agreed that reckless construction is one of the prime factors responsible for climate change in Jammu Kashmir.
Emission of green house gases is another cause responsible for climate change. The estimated temperature is projected to increase from 0.9 +/- 0.6 degree to 2.6 +/- 0.7 degree in next fifteen years. A report on ‘Climate change in Kashmir’ by ‘Action Aid’ says Pampore-Khrew belt famous for its saffron production has been witnessing an unusual phenomenon over the past two decades-receiving the least snowfall in Kashmir. The report also says locals attributed this phenomenon to industrial units which have come up in the area since 1982. The Action Aid report also mentions the movement of heavy military vehicles as one of the reasons for excess pollution in Kashmir as these are out of purview of law enforcing agencies in pollution control. It is time for government to take strict measures to control factors that lead to climate change. Also the onus lies with Kashmiris to protect environment by acting as responsible citizens and help administration to bring back the lost glory of Kashmir.
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