Farmers in Kashmir Express Concerns as Dry Spell Persists.

Farmers in Kashmir Express Concerns as Dry Spell Persists.

Srinagar: A prolonged dry spell in Jammu and Kashmir is causing serious concern among the people particularly the farmers as the experts have warned that it is going to create problems related to irrigation, set off drinking water crisis and trigger environmental and economic adversities in coming months.

However, the weather conditions in the Kashmir Valley are colder than average for this time of year. Temperatures dipped to -5.0°C in Srinagar on Wednesday which was 3.1°C below normal for the Kashmiri capital for this time of the year. The Weatherman has said that generally dry weather is expected to continue in the Valley from January 10 to 16. "Overall, no significant weather activity is expected till January 15," he said.

"Such a long dry spell will have an adverse impact on fruit crops especially apple, cherry, apricot and strawberry and if snowfalls and rains continue to evade us it will definitely cause scarcity of water for irrigation particularly for paddy which is the predominant crop in the Valley," said agriculturalist Abdur Rashid Sofi.

The prolonged dry spell and scanty rainfall in the past few months reduced generation in the hydroelectric power projects across J&K as well. The gap between power generation from the J&K government owned and NHPC hydropower projects in the Union Territory is widening further by each passing day, said the officials.

The projects managed by the J&K Power Development Corporation (JKPDC) have a total installed capacity of 1,211.96 MW but as against a requirement of nearly thirteen thousand million units these projects are not generating more than four thousand million units currently due to falling water levels. "Hydropower production in J&K has taken a hit as prolonged dry spells have reduced water volumes needed for it," said a JKPDC official.

Chief Engineer, Jal Shakti Department Kashmir, Sanjeev Malhotra, told local news agency KNO that, in absence of the timely snowfall and rainfall, the water level in all the surface water sources have reduced considerably. "We’re ensuring adequate water supply to the people by resorting to the curtailments, but certainly it is going to impact hugely in the long run. The snowfall in Chilla Kalan is pivotal to have adequate water, but as this period is going on presently on a dry note, it will have a long-term effect, as well," he said, adding, "Furthermore, snowfalls during the peak time of Chilla Kalan is important as the snowfall after this period will not have the same sustainability."

He further stated, "Our surface water sources are not getting recharged in absence of the snowfall and rainfall, so the precipitation at this juncture is must to get our sources recharged well in advance for the coming months."

The Kashmiris allot seventy days to winter, beginning from December 22nd. The first forty days are called the Chilla Kalan, the next twenty days the Chilla Khurd and the last ten days the Chilla Bachi. During this period the chilly wind causes the moisture in the vapour-water to freeze, and the cold is intense, the weather called Kath Kosh. It is when every drop of water freezes and, if there has already been a snowfall, icicles looking like aquamarine rods embellish the caves of the roofs and even, though occasionally, the water-vapour in the breath freezes on the moustache. In the absence of snowfall, many features of peak Kashmir winter are missing.

The Valley’s bare hillsides are being seen by some experts as a barometer of changing global weather patterns and their impact on the Himalayan region. "What we witness today is a harbinger of a worsening climate. But hopefully things will change," said environmentalist Nafees Hassan.

However, renowned climate change researcher and earth scientist, Professor (Dr.) Shakil A Romshoo said, "There is a strong positive correlation between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and winter precipitation in the Kashmir region. We had a negative NAO during December 2023 and a strongly negative NAO is predicted for January 2024, which could easily be one of the top four most negative NAOs of the past 25 years, leading to very low snowfall during December and January this year."

The absence of snow is also dampening the Valley winter tourism hopes as places like Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam are being visited by far a smaller number of tourists than these used to get during Chilla Kalan. The Valley’s premier ski resort Gulmarg has been unable to open its slopes, so far, this year. The authorities have over the past few years made sustained efforts to transform another Kashmiri resort Sonamarg into a hub for winter sports enthusiasts, but they are anxiously awaiting snowfall to host them.

At both these places, which would bustle with skiing and other winter sports activities at this time of year, the tourist footfall has significantly declined over the past few weeks, except the New Year eve when many people -both tourists and locals- attended festivals organised by the tourism department.

The J&K government is worried as the 4th Khelo India Winter Games are scheduled to begin at Gulmarg on February 2. The issue came up for discussion at a meeting of the concerned officials held in Jammu on Tuesday. Though Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, who chaired the meeting to review the preparations for the event asked the concerned departments to "complete all works expeditiously through time-bound action plans and ensure all the facilities meet the international standards", a senior government official said, "We’re keeping our fingers crossed."

Meanwhile, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an alliance of the Muslim scholars and preachers, has asked the imams of J&K mosques, scholars, heads of religious institutions and the general public to organise 'Salat Al-Istisqa' and "pray to Almighty Allah at individual and collective levels for rain and respite from the harsh weather". 'Salat Al-Istisqa' is an Islamic prayer for requesting and seeking rainwater from God.-

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