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February 23, 2016 11:18 pm

Kashmir needs to design agriculture, water strategy

SRINAGAR: Kashmir needs to design agriculture, water strategy to brace up for climate change?

The minimal snowfall in Kashmir plains, this year, has emerged as a strong concern for environmental experts, who term the aberration ‘worrying’. These aberrations, that can have long lasting impact on valley’s climate, can also be a part of a global climate changing trend, experts observe.

This year, the plains in Kashmir did not receive snowfall in the harshest winter period, locally known as Chila-i-Kalan. The dry period, spanning forty days from December 21 to January 31, was 'harsher' than the usual, locals have said. Further, observes believe that 'hotter' February, as compared to previous years, also indicates towards ‘alarming’ trend. 

Agricultural production likely to get affected

According to Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Professor and Head Department of Earth Sciences at University of Kashmir, the city of Srinagar that went snowless during the harshest part of the winter in last two years is because of climate change, the indicators of which, he says, are quite clear in the region. “We have observed significant increase in the minimum, maximum and average temperatures particularly during the winters over the region (higher than that observed in the entire northern hemisphere),” Romshoo points out.

The scant snowfall in winter season feeds the water reservoirs especially glaciers and the water bodies. The less snowfall, many believe, will also have an impact on the agricultural production of the state.

“We are having an increased temperature this time as well. This will definitely decrease the content of water reserves in the state and simultaneously impact the horticulture produce of the state,” Mohd Yousuf Zargar, Dean Faculty of Agriculture at Sher e Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology says.

Regional Director, Asia of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Richie Ahuja also explained, over an e-mail interview, that agriculture and food production systems in many parts of the world, including India, are on the front lines of challenges posed by climate change. “The climate of Kashmir has undergone a major change in terms of temperature, precipitation, and the resulting discharge in streams. The temperatures in the region of Kashmir have been rising twice as fast as the global mean average as a result of climate change,” Ahuja says.

'Unplanned urbanisation has led to natural disasters'

Several reports suggest that ‘environmental degradation’ and ‘unplanned urbanisation’ has led to several natural disasters including the devastating flood in September 2014. The floods occurred due to the weather variations  in the region which culminated into one of the worst catastrophe of the century. 

Environmental experts, however, share the repetition of a phenomenon can be an indication of a significant climate change. Kashmir valley, according to observers, has been witnessing variations for past many years. The variation in the rate of change between seasons and the winters, which are warming at a alarming rate, cautions Ahuja, have impacted both minimum and maximum temperatures during winter.

“Rainfall during winters has been increasing while snowfall is decreasing—a result of a warmer atmosphere. This creates an impact on the snow pack and its function as water storage towers that serve us during the warmer months of the year,” Ahuja shares.

Even as water reserves will be immensely hit due to less snowfall and as a result impact agriculture especially horticulture product of the state. Zargar, however, says that this change may be ‘temporary’. He adds that it is rather ‘chill’ instead of snowfall which is pre requisite for a good harvest. “The increase in temperature is worrisome. If the snowfall occurs later in the year in the off season, it will also cause problems like fruit drop, flower drop thereby reducing the harvest,” he shares.

The increasing temperatures, as a result of climate change, according to Ahuja, will lead to further reductions in snowpack, and will result in earlier snowmelt and less water storage.“Not only is there less snow, but higher temperatures are drastically increasing the rate of snowmelt while also causing earlier snowmelt. Many of the springs typically fed by snow and glacier melt have dried, while many others are likely to be impacted in the near future,” Ahuja points out.

“Strategies for agriculture and drinking water will have to be developed to adapt to this new scenario,” he concludes.

The story appeared in DNA on 23 Feb. 

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