Kashmir's climate shift: Snow scarcity & melting glaciers fuel water crisis
Post by Irfan Yattoo on Saturday, September 16, 2023
Srinagar, Sep 15: Kashmir, renowned for its breath-taking landscapes and pristine rivers, is facing a daunting challenge as climate change casts a long shadow over its paradise-like setting. In the past two months, the region has experienced a troubling deficit in rainfall, intensifying concerns over water scarcity.
Experts are increasingly raising alarms about the diminishing snowfall in winters and its early melting, which leads to an extended water crisis during the peak summer months.
Kashmir, often referred to as the "Paradise on Earth," has always been cherished for its natural beauty, characterized by lush green meadows, pristine lakes, and shimmering rivers fed by the annual snowmelt from the Himalayan mountains. However, recent years have witnessed a significant shift in the region's climate patterns.
The primary concern gripping the Kashmir Valley is the dwindling water levels in its rivers. Notably, rivers like the Jhelum and the Lidder have witnessed a noticeable drop in their water levels. This decline has been exacerbated by the lack of rainfall during the past two months, causing dire consequences for farmers who rely on these rivers for irrigation, as their crops suffer due to insufficient water supply.
Dr. Irfan Rashid, Senior Assistant Professor at the Department of Geoinformatics at Kashmir University, emphasized that Kashmir's climate is undeniably changing, and these changes are significantly affecting the region's water resources. Dr Irfan stated, "The declining snowfall and early melting of snow are clear signs of the impact of climate change. If this trend continues, it could have severe consequences for the livelihoods and ecosystem of the entire region."
He also pointed out that since August, the region has seen no rainfall, and a September heat wave broke 132 records, creating an alarming situation for Kashmir. "Most of the snow in the Himalayan ranges has already melted during the earlier months of this year. Presently, the water level in water bodies is very low, consisting of glacier melt as they have started melting," he said.
Dr. Irfan noted that for several years, the Valley has been experiencing less snowfall, leading to water crises during peak summers.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director of the Meteorological Department at Srinagar Centre, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad, emphasized that Kashmir has been witnessing a consistent decline in snowfall during the winter months. Traditionally, heavy snowfall in the Himalayan region has been a primary source of freshwater, gradually feeding the rivers during the spring and summer.
"In recent years," Dr. Mukhtar said, "the region has experienced less snowfall, and the snow that does accumulate is melting earlier than usual, predominantly in May and June. This premature melting of snow is diminishing the water supply to the rivers during the peak water demand season, causing water shortages that affect not only agriculture but also the daily lives of the residents."
He further noted that the valley has been experiencing climate changes for decades, and due to the continuous dry spell, the temperature in September has increased.
As for the prevailing weather conditions, Dr Mukhtar reported that on Friday, rain occurred at scattered places in Jammu and Kashmir during morning hours, providing some respite from the heat wave in Kashmir, while the temperature remained normal in the Jammu region.
To address the water crisis in Kashmir, the Union Territory government has initiated measures. Water conservation campaigns have been launched to encourage responsible water usage, and efforts are underway to explore alternative sources of water, such as rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge projects.