SRINAGAR: With Chilai Kalaan, the 40-day coldest spell of winter, packing its bag on a dry note in Jammu and Kashmir, experts have warned of serious consequences for tourism, power generation, water supply, health, agriculture and allied sectors.
“It has been two years since Srinagar had received snowfall at the right time (during Chilai Kalaan). This is nothing but a sign of the climate change in Kashmir. According to climatic data of the past 127 years in the state, the winter temperatures have significantly increased, particularly in January,” head department of geology and geophysics, Kashmir University, Shakil Ahmed Ramshoo told Kashmir Reader.
Recalling his youth, Ramshoo said, “We used to get more than 2-3 ft snow in the city (Srinagar) and because of the near zero temperature the snow will remain for longer durations. Like last year, this year too there was no snowfall.”
Interestingly, both Skymet and India Metrological department have forecasted clear weather by the end of the first week of February.
Srinagar recorded a low of 2.8 degrees Celsius, an increase by a notch from the previous (Saturday) night’s 1.8 degrees Celsius. The forecast for the coming week ahead, till February 5, is mainly dry weather, said Sumit Raina, Senior Scientist at IMD told Kashmir Reader.
While Skymet, in a statement, on Thursday said, “Fairly widespread heavy to moderate rain and snow is likely over Jammu and Kashmir on January 29. Places such as Srinagar, Bhaderwah, Kupwara and Jammu will witness good weather activity. Thereafter on January 30, intensity of rain will reduce and only light rain and snow will occur over few places of the state. Thereafter, clear and dry weather conditions will prevail over Jammu and Kashmir till February 2”
This is definitely the matter of concern as the snowfall in the month of February doesn’t last long as the temperature is comparatively higher and water content in snow too is more, Ramshoo said.
He also feels that the quantity of snowfall has decreased from several feet to inches not only in Srinagar, but also in other hill towns such as Gulmarg and Sonmarg, which used to witness more than seven to eight feet of snow during Chilai Kalaan.
According to the official data, the snow graph is decreasing for the last decade and there have been snowless Januaries in 1902, 1963, 1966 and then in 1980s.
Acknowledging the data, Ramshoo said, “By the end of this century we will see 30 to 50 per cent reduction in snowfall. Snowless Chilai Kalan may be more frequent now. At the moment, snowless plains don’t mean Kashmir mountains have gone dry too. On an average Pir Panchal Range receives 7.5 meters of snow, 10 meters in Shamsbari Range, 5 meters in Greater Himalayas Range (Pahalgam and Sonmarg) starting from November 01 to April 30.”
“Less snow won’t affect us now but may definitely in next few decades,” he said, adding, “I will be worried only if the trend of depletion of glaciers continues at the present speed.”
“Climate change is a global issue,” Ramshoo said, adding,
“People in Kashmir too play a vital role in disturbing the balance. The agricultural land is converted to horticultural and then burning biomass in open adds to the already existing problem.”
“The freezing of taps and water bodies, icy roads turning slippery and formation of icicles are some of the features of this period, which you won’t be able to witness now,” he added.
Meanwhile, Tourism industry too has claimed to have been hit badly due to lack of snow at ski resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam.
Normally, maximum snowfall is witnessed during December-January period but except for brief spells of light snow in plains and moderate snowfall in the upper reaches, it was a dry Chilai Kalaan this year too.
President Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir (ATOAK), Rauf Tramboo said most of the Indian and foreign tourists have postponed their travel to the valley as the snowfall is very less this year.
Tramboo said the winter adventure sports activities like National Snow Championship, scheduled for at Kashmir’s ski resorts, have either been postponed or cancelled now.
The snowless January has also taken toll on people’s health with patients suffering from respiratory tract infections witnessing a surge.
“We have been witnessing surge in the number of patients suffering with common cold, asthma, pneumonia, cough and other chest infections. These infections will subside if there is snowfall,” said Dr NN Shah, Head of Department Chest Medicine, CD hospital in Dalgate.
“It weakens the local immune system in our bodies and we become prone to these diseases during dry season,” he said, adding that asthma patients are more likely to get infected.