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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Kashmir: Dry winter with higher temperatures sparks fears of early summer

The Valley this time appears denuded with bright sunshine and dusty fields when otherwise it should have been clothed in white with slushy roads and snow-covered mountains.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2018 22:51 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Farmers till the soil around Tulip bulbs in Srinagar.
Farmers till the soil around Tulip bulbs in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

Kashmir received 60% less snow and rains so far this winter with temperatures hovering five degrees above average, meteorological data show, sparking fears of early flower bloom and summer water scarcity that could potentially devastate the Valley’s agricultural economy.

The Valley this time appears denuded with bright sunshine and dusty fields when otherwise it should have been clothed in white with slushy roads and snow-covered mountains.

Officials at Srinagar’s meteorological department said as against 53mm rains and snow which Srinagar gets on an average in January, there was just 1.2mm of precipitation recorded at Srinagar station. In December, it got 37mm of rains less than the average of 40mm.

There is, however, some hope that the current dry days might soon be over as weatherman predicted intermittent rains and snowfall for a week from February 10. “It is too early to lose hope. We still have the months of February, March and April. In fact, we are expecting snow in mountains and rains in plains from February 10,” said M Hussain Mir, a meteorologist-based in Srinagar. People are worried as Kashmir’s winter ends by February and the first week of February was extremely dry and unexpectedly hot.

The daily average temperature this month has hovered around 14 degree Celsius, five degrees above average, Mir said.

The Valley being an agricultural economy, horticulture experts feared the continuous high temperatures in February can trigger an early bloom of fruit trees, particularly stone fruits. They said fruits need ‘chilling hours’ — hours of cold temperatures normally below 7.2 degree Celsius — and then increased temperatures to bloom. And stone fruits like peach, cherry, apricot , plum and almond have less ‘chilling’ requirement as against walnuts and apple.

“When there are high temperatures and they continue to remain so, the stone fruits can bloom early. Since it is still winter season, a drop in temperature again can lead to a frost and a frost after a bloom can fail a crop,” said Dr Mohammad Amin Mir, associate professor (horticulture) at Sheri Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Even if there is no early blooming, there is another threat; a lack of moisture in soil which can devastate fruit gardens in hilly areas.

“We have witnessed dry weather playing havoc to fruit crops earlier as well. A decade ago, many of our fruit gardens ‘dried up’ on higher lands where moisture in soil was less due to scant rainfall,” said Srinagar’s chief horticulture officer, Javaid Ahmad. “Even when you dig wells, you can’t get water because there is none in the soil,” he said.

Ahmad said that the production and quality of fruits including pear and apple will also deteriorate owing to less moisture.

Amid the fears, there is good news for tourists. With peaches and apricots, Kashmir’s famed tulips may also bloom early at the Tulip Garden at the foothills of Zabarwan in Srinagar. Normally, the garden opens for public in the first week of April. An early bloom means it could be thrown open by March-end.

First Published: Feb 08, 2018 22:42 IST

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