10-Jun-2023  Srinagar booked.net

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‘Climate Change Is Hitting Us Hard’: Kashmiri Farmers Fear Waterless Summer

The concern has been created by the second successive year of sparse snowfall that is likely to cause water shortage in agricultural lands across the valley

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In a Budgam borough, a mooing cow and a labouring farmer are squeaking in the season of revival, when the valley comes out of freeze-frame and paves the way for a refreshing change.

Even as Nazir Ahmad, an educated-cultivator in his early-thirties, has arrived to prepare swatches of his family land, the sweltering spring is creating conspicuous crop concerns and casting a shadow on the impending summer.

Last year, due to less irrigation caused by scanty snowfall, seeds in his land dried up. The farmer now fears repetition of his nightmare.

“Our paddy fields are totally barren,” says Nazir, as beads of sweat shine on his tanned forehead. “We’re not able to cultivate rice due to less snowfall in Kashmir. This is affecting us a lot.”

The scanty snowfall, the grower says, is again going to cause water shortage in agricultural lands of Kashmir.

“The valley has not experienced enough snowfall from the last two winters resulting in multiple agricultural issues,” the farmer says. “This is not good news for Kashmir.”

Over the past few years, Kashmir valley was gripped by intense weather disturbances causing irregular snowfall in plains and peaks. There was an excessive snowfall in the year of 2017 that resulted in avalanches.

Following year, a massive snowfall crushed all the previous records in the valley.

During winter of 2019, more than 120 cm of snowfall was recorded in South Kashmir’s Kokernag area. It was the highest since January 1930, when the valley received 106 cm of winter precipitation.

Heavy snowfall events were also experienced in the winter of 2020-21, around which 250 cm of snow carpeted the streets continuously for weeks.

The valley starts experiencing weather interferences and high precipitation right from December. The snow falls in intervals and rests over a long time. It functions as containers to lakes and rivers, and maintains the volume of water bodies during summer.

But now, a considerable decline in snowfall, particularly during Chillai-Kalan, is hitting the normal weather cycle of Kashmir. The disruption is being linked to a climatic change making Himalayas prone to natural disasters now.

Due to this global change, experts say, the valley is experiencing early spring and winter.

“This is happening as seasons run opposite to their patterns,” says Mohammad Muslim, a Srinagar-based environmentalist.

“As climatic patterns are not habitual, a rising temperature heralds early springs in the valley now.”

February and March being part of the traditional long winter in Kashmir has experienced unpredictable heat pushing trees to bloom in unseasonable times.

“As trees keep blooming early,” Muslim says, “the chance of bud survival is quite less due to hostile insects causing damage to the crop.”

The environmentalist blames climate change for this disrupted weather module of the valley. However, he says, climate change is a standard procedure which can’t be analysed just from the last 2 or 3 years.

“We’ve to analyse this as per climatic norms,” Muslim says. “But yes, climate change is a reality and the reason why Kashmir didn’t receive enough snowfall in the last two winters.”

Kashmir, he says, is totally dependent on western disturbances influenced by North Atlantic connections. They’re the main source of winter precipitation.

“Since our agricultural practice totally depends on winter precipitation, getting 4-7 feet of snowfall at upper reaches is considered as normal,” he says. “We don’t wait for the monsoon season. So, if the winter precipitation is low, it’ll cause problems as it has direct co-relations with the amount of water in the region.”

But since sparse snowfall of the last two years has already hit the agricultural activities in the valley, farmers like Nazir are now revamping their farming methods.

They’re using hybrid plantations, centre-fittings and water-containers to beat the water scarcity in their fields. However, these technological interventions are coming with an added cost.

“We’re spending extra at a time when all of us are staring at yet another dry summer,” says Nazir, as his cow moos at the corner of his field. “We aren’t sure about the results. The climate change is hitting us hard.”