The last week of February usually marks the end of third and last phase of winters in Kashmir, but not the cold. But that seems to have changed. It was quite an unusual site when people flocked to famed Badam Wari to get glimpse of season’s first bloom. But wait a second. The first bloom normally comes at the end of March and not February! The rush of people at the Badam Wari is not out of enthusiasm, but pure surprise. First it was dry winter spell that kept people knocking at the hospital doors for most of last two months. Second, it is early onset of summers that is worrying people, mostly those who are into farming. They have been keeping their eyes fixed on the sky for most of the winters.
According to experts, the long dry spell of winters and unusual summer like feeling in February is sure to have its repercussion in coming days.
In plain words, less snowfall in the valley means water scarcity for the rest of the year. When there is no water in the rivers, there will be less energy generated by the hydropower plants. Less energy generation means energy crisis for most of the summers. In normal times, when it snows sufficiently, we generate enough energy to sell it outside the state when demand in less in Kashmir. And, when the demand is high, we barter the required amount of energy. But a long dry spell is sure to put the state out of balance, and most likely sink it into an energy crisis. The dependence on electricity from the non local sources is sure to shoot up. This means more loss to the state coffers.
The second big crisis that dry winters and early summers will throw is decline in food and other production. It will be quite a challenge to manage the crisis in absence of required precipitation. Horticulture being the main mover and shaker of economy will see a sharp decline in production because of climatic change. If there is further decline in horticulture produce, as has been pattern in last few years, it will affect livelihood of a large section of people living across the valley. This will push already aggrieved farmers into further finical chaos; something that cash starved state is not able to bail out.
Since last few years, due to erratic weather pattern, and shortfall in rainfall during crucial months, saffron production has declined drastically. Same is the case with other cash crops. If the same pattern continues then Kashmir is sure heading towards a bigger crisis.
With chances of rain or snow looking bleak in coming days and sun shining in its full glory, the promised brighter days are not in sight, at least for now.
Let’s hope that March comes with respite for everyone. As they say: let it rain please.