‘Serious ecological crisis’: Experts sound alarm on climate change in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Following the change in weather pattern that has led to frequent flash floods, landslides and avalanches in Jammu and Kashmir in the past few years, environmental experts are of the opinion that such events could occur repeatedly if immediate steps are not taken to cope with the threatening situation.

Vice-Chancellor, Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), Dr Shakil Ramshoo said that climate change is the biggest factor for the inclement weather in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Natural calamities like cloud bursts, landslides are something which can’t be predicted. However, the increase in their intensity is definitely linked to the overall climate change we are witnessing globally,” Ramshoo said.  

Ramshoo, who has done extensive research on hydrology, glaciology and climate change impact studies in the Himalayan region, said that the penetration in the fragile ambiances in the name of development is the biggest factor for the environmental degradation in the valley.

“Factors like urbanization, developmental infrastructure are the main reasons that our environment is getting polluted which later results in landslides and other disasters,” he said. “The latest example of ill planned developmental work is four-lanning of Srinagar-Jammu highway. And the results are in front of us. Every day we are witnessing landslides along the highway.”

Following the fresh snowfall on Friday evening in the valley, the traffic movement on the Srinagar and Jammu highway was again closed for vehicular traffic after fresh landslides in Ramban sector.

Many areas across J&K including Trikuta hills of Mata Vaishnodevi and tourist resorts of Bhaderwah and Patnitop in Jammu region experienced season’s first snowfall.

Ramshoo said that the government should come up with eco-friendly developmental policies to safeguard nature.

“In 2014, some of the areas in south Kashmir witnessed 620 millimeters of rain that resulted in floods. Such extreme rainfall is alarming,” he said.

Kashmir has a long history of floods, with most of them linked to the Jhelum river. According to the data, the worst floods that the valley has witnessed were in the year 1841, 1893, 1903, 1929, 1948,1950, 1957, 1992, and in 2014.

Experts believe that deforestation, unplanned construction, river pollution, and overuse of chemical fertilizers by farmers are some of the factors that have led to the drastic change in the environment, making it more vulnerable to natural disasters over time.

Environmental lawyer and activist Nadeem Qadri said that the tempering secrets of nature are the direct results of environmental degradation that Kashmir is facing today.

 “I have been crying for the past 10 years that we are living in a fragile environment which needs to be protected, but nobody is listening to me. We as a society, as a government have failed to save nature,” Qadri said.

“This summer we witnessed 38 degree Celsius in Kargil. It is unprecedented. And yet we are in deep slumber,” he said.

Qadri said that the allocation of the budget for afforestation in Kashmir is not even 2 percent.

In June last year, at least eight persons died and 20 persons are feared missing while several structures got damaged after cloudbursts triggered flash floods in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir amid incessant rains. 

“Kashmir Himalayas are facing serious ecological crises. We need to address the issue at the earliest, otherwise what we are witnessing today is only the beginning of what is to come. It is an SoS situation,” he said.

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