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Scorching summer in Kashmir

Unraveling the causes and exploring solution
12:00 AM May 30, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
scorching summer in kashmir

The meteorological department of Kashmir on Friday issued an advisory amid increasing temperature in Kashmir valley, it’s said that the heat wave will continue and there is not any sign of precipitation towards the end of this month. On Saturday the temperature in Srinagar was recorded at 30.7degree Celsius.


Even a small increase in average temperatures makes a big difference to heat extremes. The daily temperature distribution changes towards higher values, increasing the likelihood and intensity of hotter days. The severe rising of heat waves can be directly related to human induced climate change.


There is an alteration in changing levels of Greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere. Emissions from vehicles, burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and urbanization are some main cogitates leading to extreme heat intensity in Kashmir.


Deforestation happening in Kashmir is a significant contributor to rising temperatures and the intensification of heatwaves. A study published by Indian Institute of Remote Sensing titled ‘Impact of Deforestation on Regional Climate in the Western Himalayas highlights a concrete evidence of the link between deforestation and rising temperatures in Kashmir.


This study found that between 2000 and 2020, Kashmir lost approximately 8% of its forest cover, leading to an average temperature increase of 1.5% in deforested areas. As forests play an important role in global cooling of atmospheric temperature. Forests provide shade, releasing moisture through transpiration and absorbs carbon dioxide.


The shade reduces heat absorption by surfaces, while transpiration cools the air. Additionally, carbon dioxide absorption reduces the greenhouse effect, thereby lowering overall atmospheric temperatures. Urbanization is also contributing to warming, the changed urban landscape leads to accumulation of heat due to concrete infrastructures, human activities and other related factors.


This contributes to a phenomenon called 'Urban Heat Island Effect’. This effect has implications on various climatic parameters. Urbanization followed by human induced changes leads to generation of various greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contributing to climate change directly leads to warming.


Vehicles emitting various pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides and other particulate matter into the atmosphere, when these pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere, the atmospheric gases composition is disturbed and as a result of which these gases it does not allow the long wave terrestrial waves to go back into the space, thereby facilitating their absorption leading to rise in temperature contributing directly warming of earth’s surface .This increasing solar intensity has implications not only on environment, agriculture and wildlife but also on health of humans.

Elderly persons, young children and people with chronic health issues are at the verge to experience adverse effects. Conditions like heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat strokes, dementia and strain to kidneys can occur. Hence, it's necessary for them to keep their body hydrated by drinking plenty of water, avoid going out during the hottest part of the day (usually between 11a.m and 2p.m), take cool showers and apply sunscreen with a high SRF to protect the skin from sunburn.

Kashmir’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, with key sectors including horticulture, floriculture and staple crop production. The recent heat waves have profound effects on these key sectors. Kashmir is famous for apple and saffron production and these two crops are particularly vulnerable. Heatwaves contribute to an unfavorable environment for crops to grow, this leads to early ripening of fruits leading to smaller and declined production with less market value of the produce. With rising rates of evaporation of water from soil and water bodies leading to high chances of water scarcity.

With less water availability farmers face hurdles in irrigating the field leading to crop stressing and reducing yields. Kashmir’s diverse fauna also faces challenges due to heat waves. Increasing heat waves can disrupt ecosystems, alter habitat and affect health and behavior of wildlife.

Heatwaves have become frequent and severe due to human induced climate change posing a significant threat, so there is a need to provide an effective solution to mitigate its impacts to ensure resilience and sustainability.

We need to rethink how our activities are contributing to climate change, and search for some practical solutions. Afforestation, green infrastructure, efficient building design, efficient irrigation systems, rain water harvesting, public awareness campaigns, agroforestry, adherences to advisories etc. are some solutions that need to be implemented at all levels. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, researchers and communities are essential to effectively address the challenges posed by heatwaves.

BY Shah Khalid Ahmad

Author is pursuing Masters in Environmental Science from Cluster University Srinagar.