Jammu and Kashmir famous for its awe-inspiring beauty, is confronting a precarious future as climate change casts a looming shadow over its fragile ecosystems. Kashmir exemplifies the intricate interplay between geography and climate. Its unique topography and strategic location contribute to the region's susceptibility to the effects of climate change. As temperatures continue to rise globally, Kashmir along with other parts of the world experiences a confluence of challenges, including glacier retreat and changes in precipitation patterns. These climatic shifts not only impact the natural environment but also reverberate through the socio-economic tapestry of the region like winter tourism etc. Against the backdrop of these environmental changes, precipitation and temperature emerge as pivotal variables, serving as key indicators to trace the extent and magnitude of climate change in this majestic Himalayan landscape.
The significance of the Himalayan mountain system lies in its profound influence on the climate across a vast expanse. However, the current changes in climate are increasingly impacting this mountainous region.
In the past, the scientific community primarily Dr. Shakil Ahmad Romshoo has raised voice and concerns about the rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns in the area. Within a short span, these warnings and findings have transformed from theoretical concerns to a harsh reality.
However, due to lack of knowledge and understanding about climate change and climatic variabilities among the masses make it challenging to understand the irreparable changes and to anticipate the potential impacts. Approximately, till the year 2012, I witnessed heavy snowfall, ranging from 4 to 12 feet on average and especially on time around my birthplace in Manzgam-Kupwara as well as in upper reaches during the Chilia Kalan period, that continues from December to January. The prolonged freezing during this time was crucial for maintaining water supply along with other significances. However, nowadays, due to climate change, a dry spell is experienced in both plains as well as in upper regions of the valley, even towards the end of Chilai Kalan. This shift is significant, particularly considering the importance of sustaining water supply for an extended period. Due to these irreversible climatic changes, harsh summers, increased chances of drought and water scarcity along with diseases is anticipated due to these potential climatic changes.
Biodiversity loss poses a global environmental crisis, impacting vital ecosystem services utilized by humans. Kashmir region that is home to one of the world’s virgin habitats and origin for major river systems is also experiencing rapid climatic changes. These unprecedented rates of warming and pose significant threats to ecosystem functioning and services essential for our existence.
While, urgent action is required from international communities and multilateral agencies in the Kashmir region to confront the challenges posed by biodiversity losses, compromised ecosystem functioning and reduced ecosystem services resulting from climate warming and anthropogenic impacts. However, identifying threatened ecosystem services and developing sustainable solutions are paramount in mitigating these potential environmental concerns.
However, it is evident that the world is grappling with the irreversible challenges of climate change, where they are also actively engaging in climate adaptation measures. While, in addition, it's crucial to prepare for the climate emergency by educating the public through electronic, print and social media. Creating awareness among the masses about the potential challenges such as droughts, water scarcity, diseases and hunger is essential for fostering resilience in the face of these harsh realities.
Our Planet, Our Future! Let’s unite against climate change and emergency along with an effective response.
Suhail Bashir, Environmental Consultant in Sharjah, UAE. He is also founder of Northern Conservancy for Sustainable Future.