Dry & Drought

Unusual Winters

Kashmir Magazine

Tassaduq Rashid

Climate change is defined as any undesirable long-term changes in weather and climatic conditions as the result of natural and anthropogenic factors. Climate change is a burning and most pressing global issue in contemporary time. It is a greatest threat to global security. Instability in an atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities has led to great changes in weather and climate conditions across the world.
As per the report of Global Climate Risk Index 2021 Published by Bonn based environmental think tank German Watch, India is the seventh most vulnerable country among 181 countries showing deleterious effects of climate change. Climate change is leaving an impact on every aspect of life. Jammu and Kashmir being rich in fragile ecosystems and known for its scenic beauty is also witnessing great effects of climate change. The effects of climate change are visible everywhere in Jammu and Kashmir. Climate change has made the weather patterns of Jammu and Kashmir less predictable.
According to a report, the temperature in Jammu and Kashmir has increased by an average of 1.2 degree Celsius against a global increase of 0.8 to 0.9 degree Celsius over the last 100 years. There are a number of responsible causes that are adding to instability in the atmosphere leading to great changes in weather and climatic conditions. Emission of greenhouse gases like methane, carbon dioxide, water vapours, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbon into the air are main reasons responsible for global warming and climate change. The greenhouse gases lead to more absorption of heat that is retained in the atmosphere and thus increase global temperature. Burning of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, decomposition of organic matter, use of organic fertilizers, volcanic eruption, animal respiration, and deforestation abundantly produce greenhouse gases that add to global warming and climate change.
Climate change is leaving a great impact in Jammu and Kashmir. The suitable ecological conditions for survival of all flora and fauna species have been severely affected. The clear air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and safe shelter for living organisms have also been affected due to climate change. The unpredictable strong winds, torrential rains, sleets are causing great damage to agricultural and horticultural crops. They are increasing the prevalence of bacterial, viral and fungal diseases to agricultural and horticultural crops that are incurring great economic loss to farmers.
The economy of Jammu and Kashmir people is highly dependent on agriculture. The recent unpredictable weather changes in the Kashmir valley caused great damage to farmers particularly fruit growers. The fungal diseases to fruit trees and crops have soared and left framers very dejected and dismayed. Weather changes decrease food production, depriving food accessibility to people and even forces people to migrate to other safer and suitable places. Scorching heat due to global warming and climate change is causing heavy downpour and it results in cloudbursts, flash floods, landslides and deep soil erosion.
September 2014 floods in Kashmir valley had climate change as one of the reasons. The destruction caused by September 2014 floods is unforgettable, as it has paralysed all sectors in the Kashmir valley. The recent cloudbursts in District Budgam led to two innocent deaths. The devastating cloudbursts due to climate change are hitting every part in the valley leading to deaths, injuries and damage to property in lakhs. For the past one decade, the cloudbursts and flash floods have increased killing hundreds of people in Jammu and Kashmir.
The famous glaciers like Hispar, Biafo, Baltoro,Batura, Thajiwas, Drang Drang, Shafat, Kalahoi, Harmukh that are the main source of fresh water for perennial rivers have been retreating at the high pace. The glacial area of all such glaciers has reduced largely. There are a number of glaciers in Kashmir valley that have melted completely and some are dying rapidly amid global warming and climate change. The reduction in glacial area and fast melting of glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir has been severely affecting many sectors directly or indirectly. The agricultural lands that are dependent on snow fed rivers for irrigation are gradually turning into dry lands and hundreds of villages are facing acute shortage of drinking water. Surplus water areas in Kashmir valley are turning into water deficit areas. Springs, rivers, lakes, wetlands and other water bodies are losing their pristine and mesmerising beauty due to receding water level and drying.
Hydroelectric power projects are also posing a serious threat due to non-availability of water. The situation of all water bodies is very grim and pathetic and lush green fields are being affected by drought and turning into deserts and wastelands. Increase in temperature in water bodies is posing a serious threat to the aquatic flora and fauna. Aquatic flora and fauna species sensitive to high temperatures are declining in number. Many species have already become extinct amid climate change, some species are on verge of extinction, and therefore climate change is affecting the food chain and food web severely causing aquatic life imbalance.
It is the high time to work for the betterment of the climate. Otherwise glaciers will melt, water bodies will dry and die, ecosystems will disappear and species will go extinct, food production will decline, diseases will rise and the struggle for competition among organisms will increase. Let us pledge and join hands together for the better environment
Carbon emissions that have heated the atmosphere are devastating the green gold of Jammu and Kashmir by massive fires. Massive forest fires are further increasing global warming due to release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. For the past many years, the dense green gold of Jammu and Kashmir have been burnt to ashes and are incurring loss of crores to the government. The increase in annual temperature, erratic and decrease in rainfall, warm winter and less snowfall in winters have been the reasons for the sudden rise of forest fires in Jammu and Kashmir.
Climate change is affecting the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir valley due to its deleterious effects on the beautiful and serene landscapes, mesmerising and pristine water bodies, snow-capped mountains and lush green forests famous for tourist attractions. It is decreasing job opportunities for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the responsibility of all of us to protect and preserve nature and nature will protect us from deleterious effects and disasters of climate change. Education and awareness among the people about the environment is the need of the hour. Inclusion of environmental education in school curriculum for all classes will develop environmental ethics among students. Need for changing lifestyles, conserving natural resources and promoting and adopting environment friendly practices like using green energy, renewable energy, organic farming, biofuels, use of bio pesticides, bio weedicides, use of clean tech and electric vehicles are essential for reducing global warming and reducing climate change impacts.
The commitment of the nation towards achieving sustainable development goals by 2030 and reducing the emission rates to levels agreed under Paris agreement 2016 will also help to fight against global warming and climate change. Polluters pay tax, emission tax, replacing traditional building designs by green building designs and installation of renewable energy units like solar panels will reduce the revenge of climate change. It is the high time to work for the betterment of the climate. Otherwise glaciers will melt, water bodies will dry and die, ecosystems will disappear and species will go extinct, food production will decline, diseases will rise and the struggle for competition among organisms will increase. Let us pledge and join hands together for the better environment.
Meanwhile the Kashmir valley is witnessing immense dry weather conditions this year. Unlike previous years, the snowfall is nowhere this time. This prolonged dry spell in Jammu and Kashmir is causing serious concern among the people particularly the farmers as the experts have warned that it is going to create problems related to irrigation, set off drinking water crisis and trigger environmental and economic adversities in coming months.
However, the weather conditions in the Kashmir Valley are colder than average for this time of year. Temperatures dipped to -5.0°C in Srinagar which was 3.1°C below normal for the Kashmiri capital for this time of the year. The Weatherman has said that generally dry weather is expected to continue in the Valley till January 24. “Overall, no significant weather activity is expected till January 24,” he said.
“Such a long dry spell will have an adverse impact on fruit crops especially apple, cherry, apricot and strawberry and if snowfalls and rains continue to evade us it will definitely cause scarcity of water for irrigation particularly for paddy which is the predominant crop in the Valley,” said a senior agriculturist.
The prolonged dry spell and scanty rainfall in the past few months reduced generation in the hydroelectric power projects across J&K as well. The gap between power generation from the J&K government owned and NHPC hydropower projects in the Union Territory is widening further by each passing day, officials maintained.
The projects managed by the J&K Power Development Corporation (JKPDC) have a total installed capacity of 1,211.96 MW but as against a requirement of nearly thirteen thousand million units these projects are not generating more than four thousand million units currently due to falling water levels. “Hydropower production in J&K has taken a hit as prolonged dry spells have reduced water volumes needed for it,” a JKPDC official held.
Chief Engineer, Jal Shakti Department Kashmir, Sanjeev Malhotra told media that, in absence of the timely snowfall and rainfall, the water level in all the surface water sources have reduced considerably. “We’re ensuring adequate water supply to the people by resorting to the curtailments, but certainly it is going to impact hugely in the long run. The snowfall in Chilla Kalan is pivotal to have adequate water, but as this period is going on presently on a dry note, it will have a long-term effect, as well,” he said, adding, “Furthermore, snowfalls during the peak time of Chilla Kalan is important as the snowfall after this period will not have the same sustainability.”
He further stated, “Our surface water sources are not getting recharged in absence of the snowfall and rainfall, so the precipitation at this juncture is must to get our sources recharged well in advance for the coming months.”
The Kashmiris allot seventy days to winter, beginning from December 21st. The first forty days are called the Chilla Kalan, the next twenty days the Chilla Khurd and the last ten days the Chilla Bachi. During this period the chilly wind causes the moisture in the vapour-water to freeze, and the cold is intense, the weather called Kath Kosh. It is when every drop of water freezes and, if there has already been a snowfall, icicles looking like aquamarine rods embellish the caves of the roofs and even, though occasionally, the water-vapour in the breath freezes on the moustache. In the absence of snowfall, many features of peak Kashmir winter are missing.
The Valley’s bare hillsides are being seen by some experts as a barometer of changing global weather patterns and their impact on the Himalayan region. “What we witness today is a harbinger of a worsening climate. But hopefully things will change,” an environmentalist said.
However, renowned climate change researcher and earth scientist, Professor (Dr.) Shakil A Romshoo said, “There is a strong positive correlation between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and winter precipitation in the Kashmir region. We had a negative NAO during December 2023 and a strongly negative NAO is predicted for January 2024, which could easily be one of the top four most negative NAOs of the past 25 years, leading to very low snowfall during December and January this year.”
The absence of snow is also dampening the Valley winter tourism hopes as places like Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam are being visited by far a smaller number of tourists than these used to get during Chilla Kalan. The Valley’s premier ski resort Gulmarg has been unable to open its slopes, so far, this year. The authorities have over the past few years made sustained efforts to transform another Kashmiri resort Sonamarg into a hub for winter sports enthusiasts, but they are anxiously awaiting snowfall to host them.
At both these places, which would bustle with skiing and other winter sports activities at this time of year, the tourist footfall has significantly declined over the past few weeks, except the New Year eve when many people -both tourists and locals- attended festivals organised by the tourism department.
The J&K government is worried as the 4th Khelo India Winter Games are scheduled to begin at Gulmarg on February 2. The issue came up for discussion at a meeting of the concerned officials held in Jammu on Tuesday. Though Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, who chaired the meeting to review the preparations for the event asked the concerned departments to “complete all works expeditiously through time-bound action plans and ensure all the facilities meet the international standards”, a senior government official said, “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
Meanwhile, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an alliance of the Muslim scholars and preachers, had asked the imams of J&K mosques, scholars, heads of religious institutions and the general public to organise ‘Salat Al-Istisqa’ and “pray to Almighty Allah at individual and collective levels for rain and respite from the harsh weather”. ‘Salat Al-Istisqa’ is an Islamic prayer for requesting and seeking rainwater from God.