On October 21, the Met office in Srinagar issued a statement that a high intensity and active western disturbance would mostly likely cause widespread moderate to heavy rains in plains and moderate to heavy snowfall in upper reaches and some plain areas as well — rains in plains of Jammu, Kashmir and snow in upper reaches of Kashmir and in parts of Ladakh during 23rd to 24 October 2021… Low temperatures and heavy snowfall submitted for the information of general public as well. But with the Valley yet to recover from the lockdown , the warning went largely unnoticed by the people in general and farmers in particular. During the night of October 22nd and 23rd, it started raining in Srinagar and the rest of Kashmir that brought the temperature to a maximum of 6 degrees Celsius. Some parts of the valley received first snowfall of the season as well, like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Shopian and parts of Kulgam. Apple trees laden with fruit broke away under the weight of the snow on their canopies. Heavy rains and early snowfall in parts of Kashmir valley’s plains have triggered concern among the farmers, especially in the apple sector, which was at the peak of its harvesting season. Farmers in South Kashmir’s Shopian, where the apple trade is central to the economy, say that trees in several orchards have been damaged due to fresh snowfall. Early snowfall is proving to be devastating for the people of Kashmir. It is heart-wrenching to see a year’s hard work being washed away. Snow is destroying the apples as well as the apple trees. Kashmir valley is witnessing what many are calling now an early onset of winter, as temperatures have dipped suddenly since the past one week. The region’s hill stations, such as Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg , have reported the season’s first snowfall, with terming it as climate change. At least three members of a nomadic community in Tral area of Pulwama district lost their lives as a result of this bolt from blue. The Meteorological Department (MeT) had issued an advisory regarding the weather forecast, following which the department of horticulture had directed farmers and fruit growers to speed up harvesting. The farmers, however, say that they could not have done so much in just four days. What worries the farmers is not the effect of weather on the apple produce but the damage to the apple trees that are yet to be pruned and have foliage intact. The damage to trees is more devastating and has an effect on the next year’s produce as well. This is the third consecutive year that the apple crop has faced hurdles against a smooth harvest since 2019.
Early snowfalls and successive lockdowns and situation aftermath of 05 August 2019 had damaged nearly 35% of the produce, affecting overall trade. Large numbers of fruit-bearing trees are reported to have suffered damages due to unseasonal snowfall, witnessed in several parts of Kashmir valley. Reportedly 50 percent fruit crop was yet to be harvested in twin districts of Shopian and Kulgam. The leaves of the chinar trees are still green, signaling winter yet to arrive. The chinar trees normally signal winter and snow when its leaves turn yellow and start falling. The prediction was right on the nose ….. Means to fight snow vagaries have changed but one thing that has continued for centuries is our traditional fire-pot popularly known as Kangri. Even though Srinagar and most of the other major towns didn’t receive snowfall but heavy rains left almost all the major roads water logged—due to the poor drainage system. People in City and towns have been protesting and demanding a modern drainage system. Srinagar and many major towns like Anantnag continue to be the victims of water-logging whenever it gets a few hours of rain. The drainage systems are totally inadequate to withstand heavy rains and snowfall. The water-logging, especially in the interior areas of urban centres, turned the roads into a ‘cesspools’ as drainage overflowed onto the roads.
(The author is a teacher at Govt High School Brakpora, Anantnag. Views are his own)