SRINAGAR: Water bodies have so dried up due to lack of rain and snow in Kashmir Valley that the administration has asked farmers in a north Kashmir area to desist from planting paddy this year.
Chief Engineer at the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Shahnawaz Ahmad Mir, told Kashmir Reader that farmers in an area at the border of Baramulla and Kupwara districts have been told not to plant paddy this year, because there is no sufficient water available in water bodies.
“At Sangam, which is one of the main sources of water for the districts, the gauge level of Jhelum is 1.1ft, which is much lower than the 3 feet required for the supply of irrigation water. Though the areas which come under the advisory (against planting paddy) are Abi Doom and Soam (which receive water from Abi Awal), it is still an alarm bell for the rest of the Valley,” Mir said.
Though the advisory has been issued for only a segment, Mir said, there is likeliness that the same may be issued across the valley, as the water level at all the places is significantly low.
“At Srinagar, the level is 3 feet, which is because the department has closed a gate in the Jhelum at one end. Otherwise, the level will be less than that. In south Kashmir, where there are main sources of water for the Jhelum, the level is close to 1ft,” he said.
The department is waiting for another fifteen days to see if fresh rain raises the water level in the Jhelum, he said. If that does not happen, the advisory may be issued across the Valley.
A top official in the agriculture department told Kashmir Reader that the last drought in Kashmir occurred in the year 2000. He said the water levels are quite low this year due to less rain and snowfall. The valley on average receives snowfall of 198.2mm from December to February, but the snowfall received this winter is less than 40mm.
In Baramulla and Kupwara, farmers have been asked to switch over to pulses which require less water. The Public Health Engineering department wrote to all field wings to prepare a “drought action plan” in February this year.
The Valley is also facing shortage of drinking water, which has led the High Court to intervene. A six-member government panel has been formed on the court’s orders to do something about the imminent drinking-water crisis in the Valley. The panel is still in the initial process of preparing an action plan.