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No snowfall in Chilaikalan & its consequences!

The situation is grave as there is no snowfall forecast. J&K Govt must make Carrying Capacity report public
11:31 PM Jan 19, 2024 IST | Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
no snowfall in chilaikalan   its consequences
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People in Jammu are shivering with cold as the day temperature was recorded around 8 degree Celsius a few days back (January 13th 2024). 12 degree Celsius in New Delhi, and on the same day the maximum temperature recorded in Srinagar was 15 degree Celsius. Banihal which is a cold place in Jammu region bordering Kulgam district recorded 20 degree celsius on Jan 13th. This was the second highest maximum temperature of January in Srinagar after 50 years while the minimum temperature was minus 4.2 on Sunday. On the intervening night of Friday and Saturday night the minimum temperature in Srinagar was also unusual; it was zero degree Celsius which is quite uncommon in January as mercury dips down to minus 4 to 10 during January month.  The Meteorological (MeT) department in Srinagar has predicted some snowfall on January 16th but that will be very mild in hilly areas. For more than two weeks people have been eagerly waiting for snowfall but the climate is completely dry and sunny. The 40-day long Chilai Kalan which is considered to be the 40 days of harsh winter days started here on December 21 and will end on January 30. Till date there has been no snowfall from December 21st 2023 to January 16th 2024 . On 10th November 2023 and 16th December 2023 there was snowfall in mountains of Kashmir and hills especially in Gulmarg , Sonamarg, Doodh Pathri and Yusmarg where 4 to 6 inches of snowfall was recorded but that was too mild and it melted down in a few weeks.

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From December 16th till date there has been no snowfall and which has caused a lot of concern not only for the environmentalists or weather experts but those associated with winter tourism trade are upset as many tourists, skiing enthusiasts have cancelled their bookings. A Kashmiri snowboarder Zaman Bhat who works in Bangalore loves snowboarding. For the last many years he would come to Gulmarg for at least two weeks and enjoy snowboarding along with his friends, but as there is no snowfall he and his friends now plan to go to Kazakhstan? Many skiing players are said to have cancelled the bookings as there is not even an inch of snow in Gulmarg. The local schools in Srinagar and other districts who had plans to bring their students to Gulmarg have also cancelled their bookings and some have lost their advance money as well which they had paid to hotels in Gulmarg.

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Rivers, streams drying up

Mukhtar Ahmad, director of the Indian Meteorological Department at Srinagar while talking to a private news channel a few days back said that the situation next summer could turn serious as there might not be enough water to feed the snow-fed rivers. Majority of rivers and streams in J&K are snow-fed and emerge from glaciers and if there is no snowfall in the higher reaches it will lead to drought in the summer. Already the drinking water crisis is quite visible. The Doodh Ganga stream has almost dried up due to no snowfall or rainfall during the last almost a month now. The situation has further turned ugly as the depth of Doodh Ganga has gone down drastically in the last few years due to illegal riverbed mining. The Doodh Ganga water filtration plant is receiving very less water from its source at Nowhar in Chadoora upper reaches. Earlier I had been raising my concern about dumping of solid and liquid waste in Doodh Ganga, now the water level has also gone down as the flow isn’t at all maintained. The water is seeping down into trenches and caves that were created by huge machinery and cranes used by project proponents involved in riverbed mining. The bore-wells and tube wells located on the banks of Doodh Ganga have also dried up in many places and areas in city uptown and parts of  Budgam district are facing acute water shortage.

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In fact the use of heavy machinery like JCBs and L&T Cranes has been banned by National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the ban is being finally enforced on the ground from June 1st 2023 but the damage already caused in the last 2 years has been intense. The locals say that the damage caused to Doodh Ganga, Shali Ganga, Vaishav, Romshi or Rambiara streams in Budgam, Pulwama, Kulgam or Shopian during last 2 years has been massive as compared to riverbed mining done in last 15 years.  Vice President meteorology Skymet weather services Mahesh Palawat told India Today in an interview that less or no snowfall in Jammu & Kashmir will be serious as the glaciers won't get recharged. “In summer these  glaciers will melt at a faster pace” Mr Palawat said.  He further said that if the trend continued, it could gradually lead to snow-fed rivers drying up.

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Glaciers are receding

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The melting of glaciers in Jammu & Kashmir including Ladakh will severely impact  the water availability in the Himalayan region with consequent adverse effect on the dependent livelihoods, a leading scientist has warned. The Govt of India last year in September had proposed forming a 13-member technical committee to evaluate the “carrying capacity” of 13 Himalayan States which includes J&K as frequent landslides leading to deaths and destruction had led the Supreme Court to moot a re-evaluation of the load-carrying capacity of hill towns and cities. Till date it is not known who is the evaluating officer having been assigned the work to be taken up in J&K and Ladakh ?

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Studies show that glaciers in Himalayan region have dwindled by 25 % in the 60 years while 48 % & of them could vanish by the century's end even with moderate climate change. Earth scientist and Vice Chancellor Islamic University of Sciences and Technology-IUST Awantipora Kashmir Prof Shakeel Ahmad Romshoo, while talking to PTI in October last year said :

"We have about 18,000 glaciers, some of these glaciers are big like the Siachen glacier which in one dimension has a length of about 65 kms. The huge glaciers we have, about 500 to 600 metres thick, are huge resources in J&K and Ladakh. The other thing that is happening in this region under the climate change is that we get less snowfall and comparatively we get more rainfall”

In July 2010 during my trekking towards Tatakoti peak I met an old shepherd (Bakerwal) namely Mian Khari at Domail Ashtar valley where from Shali Ganga streams flows down to Doodh Pathri. The old Bakerwal who is still alive and hails from Rajouri while pointing his finger towards the glacier said that the Tatakoti glacier’s snout was huge  when he was young, “ In 60 years, the Tatakoti glacier snout has receded drastically. The snow could be seen even 1 km down the glacier until July mid but that was not the case now ” he said

Conclusion

The consequences of unplanned development and uncontrolled urbanisation in Jammu & Kashmir have caused severe environmental imbalance. We have destroyed everything and laws and rules governing air and water pollution are violated not only by the private players but even by the law enforcing agencies like J&K Pollution Control Board, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Municipal Committee and Geology and Mining Department. Air Pollution from cement and brick kilns has increased black carbon emissions and that is enhancing glacial meltdown. No snowfall in Kashmir during Chilaikalan has global climate change reasons but the environmental disaster we caused locally is also responsible for it. If there will be less snowfall or no snowfall, the 2024 summer will teach us lots of lessons. I hope it snows in the coming days and weeks and let us all pray for it. We shouldn't even think of development on the pattern of Delhi , Mumbai or Indore. We live in an ecologically sensitive region and the Supreme Court has also taken a serious note of it as well in the matter of Ashok Kumar Raghav V/S Union of India case.  In response to this Public Interest Litigation -PIL, the Govt of India in January 2020, circulated among the 13 Himalayan states guidelines for assessing the carrying capacity of their hill stations, including cities and eco-sensitive zones. It had sent a reminder on May 19, 2023 to all the 13 States to undertake the study and submit the action plan as early as possible, but it is not known what action plan has been submitted by J&K Govt.

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