Residents of Kashmir are battling dry winter waiting for snowfall. Experts point to climate change


SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Prolonged dry weather is sweeping through Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir during the harshest phase of winter, leaving many people sick and farmers worried about impending water shortages.

Daytime temperatures have been higher for almost a month now, sometimes at least 6 °C (10 °F) above normal, according to Indian meteorological officials. Daytime temperatures during this harsh winter period usually hover around 5 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit).

However, nights remain cool and become extremely cold amid the dry season.

Officials say the region saw nearly 80% rainfall deficit in December, while there was no rainfall in the first week of January. Most of the plains of Kashmir have received no snowfall, while the upper reaches have received less than normal snowfall. Weather officials have warned that dry weather conditions are likely to continue for at least another week.

Experts link the changes in weather in Kashmir to broader climate change and global warming and warn that it could have cascading effects on the region’s water resources and agriculture.

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“We have seen in the last few years that the duration of winter has become shorter due to global warming,” said Mukhtar Ahmed, head of the Kashmir office of the Indian Meteorological Department. “It is not good for this place or any other place because it adversely impacts many sectors, whether it is hydropower generation, tourism or agriculture.”

The stunningly beautiful Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim this disputed territory.

Earlier this week, climate scientists confirmed that 2023 was hottest year on record and predicted that January would be warm enough to exceed the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) threshold for the first time in a 12-month period.

Countries aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees since pre-industrial times 2015 paris climate talks To prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Winter in Kashmir has historically been divided into three parts. The first is Chillai Kalan, which is the coldest 40-day part of winter that begins in late December when temperatures drop significantly, causing water to freeze in reservoirs as well as pipes. The probability of snowfall is highest in this phase and most areas, especially the higher reaches, receive heavy snowfall.

The harshest phase is followed by 20 days of Chillai Khord, or small cold, and 10 days of Chillai Bachi, or baby cold.

Ahmed said timely snowfall is important to recharge the thousands of glaciers in the region which then maintains water resources for agriculture and horticulture, the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy. For years, experts have warned about the environmental fragility of the region where villagers depend largely on glacial runoff for water.

Farmers, who depend on winter rainfall for their agricultural activities, are distressed. Over the past few years, some farmers have converted their over-watered paddy fields into fruit orchards due to water scarcity.

Wide fluctuations in temperature have also led to an increase in health issues, especially respiratory problems affecting many residents. These challenges are compounded by power outages, one of the region’s longest-running crises despite vast hydropower potential, disrupting daily life and intensifying the prevailing sense of gloom and winter stillness Has been.

Unscheduled power outages, sometimes lasting 12 to 16 hours, have disrupted care for patients with respiratory illnesses and affected businesses. Residents have long accused New Delhi of suppressing their hydropower potential, as most of the electricity produced locally goes to various Indian states, leaving only 13% for Kashmir. In peak winter, the region purchases power from India’s northern grid at higher prices to meet demand.

The famous tourism sector of Kashmir has also been affected.

There is hardly any snow in Asia’s largest ski area in Gulmarg, which usually attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists in winter to go skiing and sledding.

Thousands of mainly Indian tourists come to Kashmir in the winter months to see the snow and visit its hill stations and the main city of Srinagar, where wooden houseboats float on the waters of the vast Dal Lake, providing an enchanting stay. .

On Friday, thousands of Muslims in many parts of the region held special mass prayers and asked for God’s intervention to end the drought. At Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid, the region’s largest mosque, some worshipers among the hundreds of worshipers cried as they prayed for rain and snow.

“We are facing crisis and disease in this dry season,” said Bashir Ahmed, a local resident who attended a prayer meeting in Srinagar. “Only Allah can bring us out of this suffering.”

Sibi Arasu in Bengaluru, India contributed to this report.

Copyright 2024 The associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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