The unusual snowfall, hailstorms and heavy rains that lashed Jammu and Kashmir in the month of June shouldnt be taken lightly. It fits into the pattern of climate change seen around the world and such extreme weather conditions may likely be more severe in the future.
An international organisation Action Aid in its climate change report on Kashmir stated that the Kashmir region has shown a rise of 1.42 degree celsius in its average temperature and there is an average rise of 0.05 degree celsius per year. The estimated temperature is projected to increase from 0.9 +/- 0.6 degrees to 2.6 +/- 0.7 degrees in the next fifteen years. As a result of the rising temperatures in Kashmir over the last 50 years, hundreds of natural springs and streams have dried up. Glaciers, the main source of water, are shrinking at an alarming rate.
Deforestation in the catchment area of rivers, unplanned construction on flood plains, emission of greenhouse gases and rampant dumping of garbage info rivers are considered to be the main causes behind climate change due to human interference.
The average temperature of Jammu and Kashmir has increased by 1.2 degree celsius over the last century, higher than the global average of 0.8 to 0.9 degree celsius. Climate change has greatly affected agriculture, horticulture, agro forestry, tourism, biodiversity, water resources, natural habitats, wildlife and the livelihood of people.
As per the INCCA report, by 2030, the number of rainy days in the Himalayan region may increase by 5 to 10 days on an average, with an increase of more than 15 days in the eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir. The intensity of rain fall is likely to increase by 1 to 2 mm/day. It may have an impact on some of the horticultural crops. The rate at which glaciers are melting vary and it is being attributed to global warming, winter precipitation and anthropogenic elements.
The heavy rains and hailstorm wreaked havoc on apple orchards and agricultural produce in Kashmir, especially in the Baramulla district which makes up 25 per cent of the states apple produce. The Kashmir valley produces nearly 20 lakh metric tonnes of apple every year from 1,46,016 hectares. The Rs 8,000 crore apple industry, which is Kashmirs biggest economic contributor, is in tatters due to the changing climatic conditions. Kashmirs horticulture industry provides livelihood to about 30% of our population and the freak weather conditions are likely to bring loses. All these developments are serious concerns and are an outcome of climate change. Climate change and global warming affects everyone and its impact in Kashmir is significant.
Most ecosystems and landscapes are expected to be impacted through changes in species composition, crop productivity and biodiversity. Increase in temperature, changes in vegetation, rapid deforestation and scarcity of drinking water, habitat destruction and land fragmentation may lead to the extinction of various wildlife, flora and fauna. The increase in forest fires and drought cycles will lead to some pine species being replaced by other species and thus reduce the yield of non-timber forest products.
Agriculture is greatly influenced by climate change. Paddy, wheat and mustard productions may reduce by 6%, 4% and 4% respectively. In recent years, a huge chunk of paddy fields have been converted into rain-fed dry land in the districts of Kulgam, Anantnag, Baramulla, Bandipora, Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian. The agro-biodiversity of the state is at risk and there is a need to change the crops and cropping patterns with the changing climate. There is need to change agricultural practices and use practices for water conservation like drip irrigation and sprinkle irrigation. There is also the need to adopt organic farming and introduce non-polluting traditional methods of farming. There is a need to develop crop varieties which are drought resistant.
The changes in temperature this year in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are overwhelming. Effects of climate change are already being felt on the ground. Erratic snowfall and rainfall patterns and unusually warm winters are some of the characteristics of climate change in Jammu and Kashmir. For the last 10 years, the Kashmir valley has witnessed erratic snowfall during Chila-e-Kalan (harshest period of winter starting from December 21 to January 31).
If you talk to people born before the 80s, they will tell you that they used to witness a metre of snow or more during winters. But there is continuous depletion in snowfall. For instance, we had sufficient snows in 2006, 2011 and 2017, but very scant or almost none in the years between. But this year, the intense winter cold waves and the unusual snowfall this month in Kashmir and Ladakh is surprising.
The catastrophe of flash floods and land slides in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014 cannot be allowed to repeat. Climate change promises a frightening future and extreme measures need to be taken right now to save our planet.