Kashmir having enough water resources, but management , conservation and proper usage lacking lift irrigation facilities for fruit & field crops lacking. Rivers , streaming, springs & lakes are dying. Irrigation tax (Aabiyaana) being annually collected but irrigation facilities never provided by the Government.
Kashmir himalaya is an abode of various lotic and lentic systems.Lotic system of valley consists of beautiful springs, pernial streams, nallahs, canals and rivers which add more beauty to snow found valley. Due to negligence our riverine system is dying. We have enough water which we are not using properly, that adds more worries to our livelihood.
Kashmir valley is facing major water crisis due to continuous dry spell and as a result of which the water bodies have largely dried up and glaciers depleted to a large extent.According to latest gauge reading of Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) Department, the water level of Jhelum River at Sangam and at Ram Munshi Bagh, it has come down to a very low level . According to officials of I&FC, which monitor gauge reading, Jhelum is flowing at record low level.
There has been no rain or snowfall in Kashmir in harsh period of winter. This is the longest dry period in the month of January since 1980.Weather system in Kashmir changed rapidly during January this year. There was forecast of rain or snowfall several times, but a set of changes took away the possibility. Since 1980, there were only three years 2015, 2007 & way back in 1986 when the downpour in January did not cross double digits. Snowfall during December and January the 40 days of harshest winter period , when the chances of rain and snowfall is the highest is critical for agriculture and horticulture sectors in Kashmir Valley. This is because, snow accumulated in higher reaches of the Valley melts during summer, feeding water to rivers and streams which is used for irrigation. However this time, with very little snow even in the mountains, water scarcity is going to be a big issue if the weather continues to remain dry in the coming weeks. Agriculture produce, especially paddy, will be badly affected due to scarcity of water for irrigation at the sowing time. Prolonged dry weather can lead to drought-like situation.
Since the weather conditions are already worsening, we have no plans to overcome the crisis of draught like conditions. Valley’s irrigation and drinking water mainly depends on snow & rain. On the other hand, we have enough water resources available, but due to improper usage, it is wasted rather being used for other purposes. Lack of management of water bodies like springs, rivers, streams & channels by concerned people is worsening. Absence of lift irrigation is also a main cause of improper usage. Condition of water channels is deteriorated. Though irrigation tax (Aabiyaana) and water tax is collected every year, but irrigation facilities were never made available at the time of crisis. In 1999, 2001 & 2004 valley faced a series of draughts, but irrigation tax was not relaxed.
It was during the reign of Zain-ul-Abidin (Budshah) our riverine system was given utmost care. He constructed several irrigation channels , the most important being Shah Kol on Lidder Nadallah from Ganeshpora Pahalgam ending in Brah area of Shangus Tehsil. It was due to this canal people could good yield from field crops and horticulture produce e.g: Paddy , apple & grapes. Present dispensation had promised people that abolishing of the irrigation tax, but unfortunately has collected the same with a 15% unprecedented hike, thus adding more worries to the farming community. Government should wake up early to save our agriculture & horticulture industry which adds Rs 24939 cr to our economy. There is dire need of water conservation, construction of lift irrigation and dams for crops.
(The author a freelancer writes on topics of greater public concern exclusively for “Kashmir Horizzon”. His views are personal)