Climate Change: J&K saw ‘20 pc loss’ in glacial mass in six decades

Climate Change: J&K saw ‘20 pc loss’ in glacial mass in six decades
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Irshad Khan

Srinagar: Indicators of climate change are “very clear and loud” in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has witnessed “over 20 percent loss in the glacial mass on the mountains during the last six decades” with Kashmir valley in particular “likely to receive upto 70 percent less snowfall by the end of the 21st century”.
The projections were made by noted researcher and Head, Department of Earth Sciences, Kashmir University, Prof Shakil Romsho at a seminar on ‘Climate Change vulnerability of J&K State’ at the varsity’s EMMRC auditorium on Friday.
The seminar that was jointly orginised by Department of earth sciences KU, and Kashmir chapters of the Indian Meteorological Society (IMS) and Indian Society of Geomatics.
Prof Romsho, who was the convener of the event, said through a power point presentation that the state had lost 23 percent glacial mass on the mountains during the last 60 years due to climate change.
The glaciers in the state, Prof Romsho said, were reduced to “one meter in thickness and 20 metres in length” every year on an average.
He said that there had been a “significant decline in the waters” since 1990s as per data.
While the rivers in the state traditionally used to have maximum water level from June-August, during which paddy transplantation is done, Prof Romsho said that the peak flow had shifted towards spring.
“We don’t have that capability. We can’t store even one litre of water because there is no water storage infrastructure,” he lamented.
He said that the rivers were witnessing a “significant change in the stream flow peaks”.
Notwithstanding the significant shrink in the glacial mass in the valley, Prof Romsho said, “We still have enough water in Kashmir”.
“If somebody doesn’t get 24/7 water supply, don’t say it’s the problem of water supply, it’s a governance problem. You still have lot of water available,” Prof Romsho added.
Although the overall precipitation (snow and rains), would be “pretty flat” by the end of this century, Prof Romsho said that due to climate change patterns, Kashmir may witness “30-70 percent less snowfall”.
“There will be more frequency of snow-less winters by the end of this century. At times, there may be snow after a hiatus of 5-6 years. You will have to go to places like Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam to watch the snowfall,” Prof Romsho said.
In Srinagar, Prof Romsho said, there was a “significant shift in the pattern in chilai kalan (harshest period of winter in Kashmir)” in the last century or so due to climate change.
“Chilai kalan was snowless last year in Srinagar. Frequency of these snowless chilai kalans is increasing. You get most snow by the end of February and March. Sometimes there is crop damage. Due to dry winters, we have forest fires. It is easy for forest trees to catch fire,” he added.
He informed that the state had 8,200 glaciers, which as per him, irrigated 95 percent of agricultural land even in Pakistan across the border.
Over 73 percent of water that we use comes from glaciers, he said.
“It (water) is a very important resource in the state, but it is not going to last forever…There is a 25,000 MW of hydropower potential identified, but 50 years from now, you won’t have these water resources available. Water from this place is shared between two countries under Indus Water Treaty. It has geopolitical consequences,” he added.
In the wake of “plausible climate change scenarios”, Prof Romsho said that “climate zones will be quite different by the end of this century”.
“If water resource managers and planners don’t rise to the occasion, and don’t prepare water infrastructure in the state, you will have a big crisis. It will affect your energy security in the region,” he warned.
After the seminar, an exhibition of 32 important posters demonstrating different aspects of climate change in the state was inaugurated by Vice Chancellor, Prof Talat Ahmad.
Prof Talat said the seminar was organised in the backdrop of “tipping point” on climate change. The VC said that the varsity was working on various aspects of climate change and was “happy to collaborate” with different agencies on the subject.
A documentary on the subject titled ‘Diminishing Weather gods’ by film maker, Jalal Jeelani was also showcased on the occasion.