The spectre of climate change in Kashmir
Its striking beauty is not the only thing that hits you when you visit Kashmir valley.
Though it was the kind of paradise I had imagined, I didn’t know there would be so many shanty towns set in such picturesque locales.
An article by Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Associate Professor with Kashmir University, says the valley has been experiencing erratic snowfall and hotter summers for the last decade or so.
A report on ‘Climate Change in Kashmir’ by ActionAid, an international anti-poverty agency, says the Pampore-Khrew belt, famous for its saffron production, has been witnessing an unusual phenomenon over the last two decades — receiving the least snowfall in Kashmir.
The report also said locals attributed this phenomenon to industrial units which have come up in the area since 1982.
Locals from the Valley say that it’s unusually hot this year.
Many believe it is the wrath of God for the evils in society. Special prayers are being offered in mosques to deal with the changing phenomena.
The ActionAid report says, “Temperature on an average in Kashmir region has shown a rise of 1.45 Celsius while in Jammu region the rise is 2.32 Celsius. The Indian Meteorological Department’s monitoring reveals that temperatures are increasing in both Jammu and Kashmir valley, with significant increase in maximum temperature of 0.05 degrees Celsius per year.”
Romshoo says there are a number of indicators of climate change discernible in the Kashmir valley.
“Glaciers are receding, scanty and erratic snow fall, change of growing season, shifting of vegetation from lower to higher altitudes, shrinking/loss of wetlands, etc,” he said.
Enviroment Minister Jairam Ramesh says there is no conclusive scientific evidence that climate change is causing glaciers to recede.
Ramesh says some glaciers like the Siachen are advancing and there needs to be more study done on this subject.
Though climate change is caused by natural influences as well, Romshoo attributes it to more use of fossil fuels, burning of forests, reckless industrialization and anti-environmental lifestyles.
The ActionAid report also mentions the movement of heavy military vehicles as one of the reasons for excess pollution in the Valley.
It says convoys and heavy military vehicles produce a high level of greenhouse gases and are out of the purview of the law enforcing agencies in pollution control.
Can the government do something about the reduction of greenhouse gases in the Valley? Will education and awareness among locals and tourists help slow climate change?