The Kashmir valley has recorded unprecedented rise in temperatures over the period of years. The temperature across the Jammu and Kashmir has shown an increasing trend and it increases at a rate of 0.3° C to 0.6° C per decade. During past several years, we are witnessing increase in temperatures and decrease in the snowfall. As per the report Global Climate Risk Index 2020, India is the fifth most vulnerable country among 181 countries showing deleterious effects of climate change. Effects of climate change are already visible on ground. Increasing temperatures, melting of glaciers, less rainfall and snowfall are all signs of climate change.
Increasing temperatures: In Jammu and Kashmir there is significant increase in the annual mean temperatures. We are witnessing increasing trend in temperature across Jammu and Kashmir and it increases at a rate of 0.3° C to 0.6° C per decade. The data of Indian meteorological Department (1980-2014) shows the significant annual increase in mean temperatures of Kashmir Valley. During last 100 years, in comparison of global increase in temperature by 0.8° C to 0.9° C, the territory of Jammu and Kashmir has recorded 1.2° C rise in temperatures. A study entitled Climate change Scenario in Kashmir Valley published in Disaster Advances shows that during the period 1991-2005, the winter, spring and summer average temperatures were higher by 1.0° C, 0.4° C and 0.3° C from their respective standard normals of 1661-1990. The study further reveals higher average temperature by 0.4° C from its respective standard normal during this period.
Glaciers: The significant increase in average temperature is posing a serious threat to our glaciers. Since years, we are witnessing reduction in glacial area of glaciers. Several studies conducted by different authors reveals reduction in area of glaciers. A study conducted at Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir reveals shrunk in glaciers between 1980 and 2013. A study of nine bench mark glaciers showed reduction of total glaciated area by 29.01 square kilometers to 23.81 square kilometers. This reduction in glaciated area ultimately caused reduction in discharge of the glaciers. We are also witnessing reduction in the average snowfall in Kashmir Valley. Reduction in glaciated area and less flow of water to rivers poses a serious threat to availability of water for agriculture, horticulture, irrigation, hydropower projects etc.
Forests: Since years, we are witnessing increasing forest fires in Jammu and Kashmir. The increase in annual temperatures, abnormal rainfall patterns, less snowfall is causing more incidents of forest fires. Climate change is directly or indirectly associated with increasing occurrence of forest fires in recent years. Majority of forest fires took place during April to June under conditions of high temperature, extreme dryness and low humidity in the forest floor. The increase in average annual temperature will cause changes in species composition, productivity and biodiversity. Climate change poses a serious threat to wild flora and fauna through increasing temperatures, scarcity of water, habitat destruction and corridor fragmentation. Climate change will not only alters the species distribution pattern but strongly poses a serious threat to the livelihood of tribal communities.
Agriculture: The economy of Jammu and Kashmir is highly dependent on agriculture. The increasing trends in average annual temperature, changes in weather cycle poses a serious threat to crop yield and food production. Changes in weather cycle is causing more expansion of normal range of pests which ultimately leads to more disease occurrence in crops and less productivity. We cannot forget the destruction caused by floods in 2014. It is estimated that floods of 2014 caused destruction in major crops like apple, pear, walnut, cherry, saffron etc and caused a loss of over 14.25 billion rupees. One cannot forget the destruction caused by hailstorms. In 2019, 13 hailstorms were reported across Jammu and Kashmir and caused a serious damage to different agriculture and horticulture crops worth millions. During past two decades, we witnessed decreased production of Saffron. Erratic rainfalls and drought like situations poses a serious threat to saffron cultivation. Due to climate change the occurrence of heat and cold waves, floods are commonly occurring across the world and are posing a serious impact on the livelihood of people. We all know economy of Kashmir valley mainly depends on Agriculture and horticulture sector, the effects of climate change poses a threat to this very important sector.
Winter Tourism: Climate change poses a serious threat to tourism industry. The rise in temperatures causes melting of glaciers at a higher rate. Increased occurrence of natural disasters, less snowfall, erratic weather patterns etc poses a serious threat to tourism industry. In Kashmir Valley, snow is the main attraction for winter tourism. During past years, Kashmir is witnessing more rainfall and less snow in peak winter season. We are witnessing reduction in average snowfall throughout Jammu and Kashmir. Climate change is seriously affecting the snowfall balance of Kashmir Valley. The rise in average annual temperatures, low snowfall will have adverse effect on winter tourism and poses a serious threat to this sector.
Conclusion: Climate change is the greatest threat to global security. In Jammu and Kashmir, forests, wildlife, agriculture, water resources etc face a severe threat from climate change. Mitigation steps needs to be taken both at global as well as regional levels. There is immediate need of spreading awareness regarding climate change across the world so that it can be mitigated. We are continuously under the threat of climate change, and this serious issue needs to be addressed immediately.
(The author is a Ph D Scholar at the Faculty of Forestry SKUAST Srinagar. Views are his own, firstname.lastname@example.org)