It may still take some time to see icicles in Srinagar, but thank God, we finally have the season’s first snowfall in the plains of the valley called Kashmir. It has already been late by Kashmir standards. Usually snowing has been a December phenomenon in the plains, though the upper reach would experience it in late November. But it’s better late than never.
Over the years, Kashmir is seemingly becoming a crucible for climate change. Theories being propounded by scholars across the globe seem to have a practice reference to Kashmir, because changes are comparatively visible, given the possibility of mapping change at a small place.
During the last twenty years, Kashmir seems to have lost many things. Most of the low lying foothill glaciers have evaporated away. Not many Theid-Harwan women are seen supplying ice in June to the city now. The melting away of glaciers is the very first impact of climate change, and it is widespread across Kashmir, where most glaciers have faded away.
The second major visible change is the fall in the water level of rivers. By the end of October, Jehlum—the main river of Kashmir, lays its bed open to the sand diggers who use smaller machines to actually collect sand. The dwindling shift in the water level has impacted Chenab, the state’s powerhouse as well.
The third major issue is the early melting of snow deposits. Usually, the melting would start by the end of May, peak in June and July, and start reducing again in August.
This was enabling irrigation of the fields by the paddy growing population in the periphery. But now the trend is shifting. Now it is peak melting by early May itself, leaving nothing much for the irrigation in July, and the irrigation disputes between growers are surging with every season. There are various other issues that are part of the larger mess that impacts the crisis. Our forests are managed by a policy that has an apex court order almost dictating it. Rather than helping forests to sustain as an eco system, the policies have insulated them from the larger environment they are situated in. Forests are still considered a resource and not an area that is directly linked to the survival of human life.
It might have not been noticed that the tree line is gradually descending the slopes and denudation is an increasing trend. Desertification of so called wastelands is a reality. More and more people are increasingly becoming dependent on packaged water—a shift from tapped water that was a diversion from using river water.
This essentially means we are not adequately taking care of the water bodies, especially the quality of water. The river and most of its tributaries are being used to flush Kashmir of its dirt. Increasing morbidity because of water is a new reality that impacts families and the public kitty. All things point towards being concerned on issues of survival. Last month, the state’s forest minister told Kashmir Life that we should pray to God if we want some relief on climatic change. But we all must know—God helps those who help themselves.