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Kashmir feeling the brunt of climate change

The climate change is hurting Kashmir no end and people have started asking questions as to why there is so much change in the Valley’s atmosphere.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2009 21:05 IST
Arun Joshi

The climate change is hurting Kashmir no end.

People in Kashmir have started asking questions as to why there is so much change in the Valley’s atmosphere – rising temperatures, damp air, less water and they often become nostalgic about the era gone by when the city was synonymous with cool climes, rivers, springs full of water and dense forests hiding clouds – a fairy tale beauty all the way.

In 1990s, when the militancy erupted, people would blame their “amal” ( actions ) for the violence that besmirched the Valley’s landscape, now they are trying to seek answers, why there is erratic pattern of snowfall, rains and long dry spells, shrinking wetlands, particularly Dal and Wullar lakes and dire short supply of cool breeze.

Now, they are simply wondering. They don’t blame themselves for the change in the landscape, for which their love is so palpable. “It’s because of lack of awareness among the common people,” M Ashraf, a leading environmentalist and former Director General of Tourism, told HT.

For example, he pointed out that “merciless cutting of forests, a man made loss to the environment, has resulted in the washing of silt into the water bodies.” Ashraf said underlining the ignorance of the people involved in cutting of forests and timber smuggling, not knowing that their such acts spell environmental disaster.

A silver lining is that Kashmir’s intellectuals and researchers have woken up to this grim reality even as commoners like, Ali Mohammd, 60, a resident of Abe Guzer, a congested locality in the heart of Srinagar city, has started feeling that something is drastically changing in Kashmir in which he was born and brought.

“At times it appears to me as if I am in some alien land,” Ali Mohammad said while wondering over the hot weather and far less water in river Jhelum, the flow and water levels of which he had been watching since his childhood.

“We are confronted with a situation, which needs immediate attention,” says Prof. Riyaz Punjabi, vice chancellor of Kashmir University.

The university has formed a working group to study all the impacts of the climate change on Kashmir, which currently is reeling under heat wave and acute water scarcity.

Over the years extensive construction, almost everywhere – agricultural land, orchards, drying up water bodies and felling of green trees- a legacy of the lawlessness that prevailed during the peak of militancy in 1990s, the whole scenario in Kashmir has changed.

A study done by geo-physics department of Kashmir University has observed that how catchment areas of world famous Dal lake have reduced the flow of the water to the lake. Prof. Shakeel Romshu, who has done this study “ obviously out of environmental concerns”, told HT that the health of the lake is under threat because of unhealthy activity of construction in the catchment areas of the lake.

The lake size has already shrunk from its original 22 sq kms to sq. kms and there is a danger that the lake may become a marshland despite the commitments of the state and the central governments. It’s because locals are not reflecting on their own actions.