Jammu and Kashmir is facing the brunt of climate change and the situation seems to be worsening in the near future. The main reason for the rise in average temperatures is due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels. Jammu and Kashmir has surpassed the world average in temperature rise (for the last 100 years). As against the global increase of 1 degree Celsius, the region has recorded an average 1.2 degree Celsius rise in temperature. Air temperatures also show a rise in all seasons. Experts also suggest that annual rainfall in the Himalayan region is likely to vary between 1268+-225.5 and 1604+-175.2 mm in the 2030s.
The abnormal rise in temperatures in particular can prove drastic for the native plants, increasing their sterility and hence lowering the overall production. The changes in climatic conditions are also causing expansion of the normal range of pests, leading to occurrence of more diseases in crops and ultimately resulting in the decreasing production of food crops. The deficit in food production in Kashmir has reached 40%, while the deficit is 30% for vegetable production and 69% for oilseed production. Saffron production has also shown a decreased trend during the past two decades.
Glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir are receding at an alarming rate, compared to other glacial regions in the world. In Suru basin alone, about 16% of glaciers have been lost during the past four decades. Kolhai has shrunk 23% during the past three decades, the main source of drinking water and irrigation in the valley, due to increase in temperature caused by increased human activity near the glacier particularly by the Gujjars and Bakerwals. Significant increase in the number of pilgrims and tourists in the eco-sensitive region around the Amaranth shrine is also a reason for melting of this glacier.
Wetland habitat, productivity and process, being linked to the cycle and seasons, are getting adversely affected due to seasonal changes in precipitation and runoff. While the major water bodies, like the Dal and Wular lakes, have shrunk considerably, many smaller water bodies and seasonal ponds have completely disappeared. Most of the wetlands have less biodiversity in terms of flora and fauna compared to about half a century ago. In the process, obnoxious weeds and other aquatic life have superseded the more productive and useful biota.
Another phenomenon that is directly related to rising temperatures is the occurrence of high-velocity storms in the valley, which result in devastation of crops and fruits, thus affecting the livelihood of many people. Recently, Kashmir has witnessed drastic change in precipitation as well as seasonal changes. In 2014, Kashmir valley faced widespread floods and landslide due to incessant rainfall and cloudburst. According to official figures, 284 people were reported dead and property worth INR 50,000-60,000 million was damaged. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was on the rise in Kashmir after this worst-ever flood. Psychiatrists in Srinagar say that there has been a remarkable increase in the number of patients suffering from “early symptoms” of PTSD.
The writer is a student of Zoology at Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]