1. SRINAGAR : While the peak of winter is drawing to a close, the slopes of Gulmarg meadows are yet to be blanketed in white. The slopes and meadows have turned into a dusty field suitable for cricket, owing to the prolonged dry spell in Kashmir.

The climate of the Gulmarg meadows of the Himalayan range have changed, so does the nature of sports. The ski resort, once famous for several winter sports has turned to dusty cricket fields.

Several people who work out there on hill station said that the  snowless winters have rendered them jobless. Unlike previous years, Tariq Ahmad, a local waiter in Gulmarg is no longer seen in the restaurant. On the contrary, the 23-year-old boy is more often seen in the deserted dry fields playing cricket.

“Because of no snowfall, almost all of the national and international tourists have cancelled bookings that have taken a toll on business,” Ahmad said.

He said that in previous winters, the workers in the hill station had no time to waste. “Now because of the snowless winter, the slopes and open fields of the meadow which used to be covered with the white layer of snow have become our permanent address. Nowadays, most of the youngsters use them as cricket fields.”

Nestled in the picturesque Pir Panchal range of western Himalayan region, Gulmarg has long been known for its stunning beauty and vibrant culture.

However, in recent years, the region has been experiencing notable shifts in its winter climate patterns due to the impacts of climate change.

Not only Ahmad, many other workers who either own the business or are working as employees in any enterprise are almost sailing in the same boat.

In the meadows, the pony owner while narrating the ordeal of immediate consequences of no snowfall in the region said that hundreds like him have become jobless.

One of the Pony owners, Arshid Hussain said, “We used to earn a major chunk of livelihood through local, national and international visitors. Ironically the snowless meadows, distinct grounds and slopes have made us jobless. Whole the day, me and my co-workers played cricket in those fields where we were giving Pony rides to our visitors.”

Hussain said that the snowless mountains in ‘Chilai Kalan’ won’t have a negative impact on tourism only but also on the agriculture sector.

“Besides Pony, we have agricultural land which is dependent on waters that flow off the Gulmarg glaciers. I don’t know how to describe the ongoing scenario but I feel the dark days ahead,” he said.

The pristine snow-covered landscapes that have enchanted visitors for centuries are now facing the threat of warmer temperatures, erratic rainfall, and melting glaciers. As a result, the traditional winter activities that the region is famous for, such as skiing and ice climbing, are being affected.

The shawl sellers, adventure gear sellers, daily wagers and ski school functionaries narrated the same ordeal. “Nowadays, most of us can be seen playing cricket in those grounds which used to be covered with feet of snow.”(KNO)

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