Cool Kashmir, Boiling Sub-continent!

An elderly Kashmiri vendor sells Kangris or fire pots, on a cold morning in Srinagar, India, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Kangri is an age old device for keeping warm, consisting of a decoratively woven yellow wicker case housing an earthen pot for burning charcoal. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

Presently the Physical Climate in Kashmir and the rest of the sub-continent is quite unpredictable and could turn scary!

There has been a significant change in the physical climate both in the entire sub-continent and the Valley of Kashmir. Apparently it is part of the global climate change. In the middle of June it has snowed on Baderwah Mountains and may be other places also. The night temperature has been sometimes around 11 degrees Celsius which is unusual for the month of June. In fact, a recent photograph in a local daily showed a man carrying kangris for sale (Kashmiri earthen pot with hot coals used by local population for keeping one warm in winter). Normally, June is the season for ice creams and cold drinks. But then things keep on changing and now the changes happen without a notice. Compared to Kashmir, most parts of the sub-continent are virtually boiling! Temperatures range from 42 to 49 degrees Celsius! An interesting aspect of the rains in the valley at present is the local formation of clouds due to the heat during day. The massive amount of snow which the mountains surrounding the valley have received during the last winter acts as a ready-made source for increased precipitation and formation of local clouds. Invariably, there is a thunder shower in the evening almost every day. This keeps our temperatures down and the nights are cool or sometimes even cold!

Apart from the usual global factors like gas emissions especially the exhaust gases of automobiles, pollution due to many industrial activities an important contributor is the loss of the green cover. Smog is now a constant companion of many metros. Especially, the capital Delhi is a virtual chronic patient of smog! The loss of greenery is definitely a major factor in the rise of sudden temperatures resulting in climatic change. In May this year, almost all major cities in India experienced temperatures in the range of 42 to 49 degrees Celsius. Whole of India has become hot! The loss of green cover during last few years has been substantial. According to a survey, in recent years about 11 crore trees have been cut all over India for roads, industrial units and many other projects. In contrast, only 1 crore trees have been planted. It is now an established fact that the overall global temperature has definitely risen. This has resulted in melting of the ice in the Polar Regions. Even in Antarctica there has been appreciable melting of the ice. The melting of the polar ice has resulted in a significant rise in the sea level. There are predictions that with the further increase in global temperature and consequent rise in sea level many Island Countries like Maldives will go under water! The early effects of the climate change have been distinctly visible even in the Middle East. In UAE, there was a snowfall in one of the Emirates. Additionally, there have been rains in the desert not known earlier. Even Saudi Arabia had a snowfall in some areas.

The environmental situation is virtually same in the whole sub-continent.However, Kashmir appears to be the only cool place in this entire region! Even though the climate here too has been behaving erratically, yet the heat seems to have been substantially lessened this year. Because of the heavy snowfall on the mountains during the last winter one can still see the entire Pir Panjal Range covered with snow. The excessive precipitation is definitely also because of the green cover which appears to have increased substantially over the last few years. The accelerated plantation of willows, poplars, and the conversion of extensive areas into orchards has definitely increased the green cover. Vast areas of land including paddy lands have been converted into housing and other constructions but on the other hand there has also been an increase in green areas.Notwithstanding the fact that in many places the national tree of Kashmir, the Chinar has been mercilessly cut; the people seem to have become very fond of trees, plants, flowers and kitchen gardens. Invariably in most of the new constructions especially in private housing colonies people prefer to have small kitchen gardens, trees and shrubs.

The scary part of this climate change is the floods! The last devastating flood of 2014 which is supposed to have occurred almost after a century still gives nightmares to the people. This is especially so because the concerned authorities reportedly have done nothing to ensure that there is no repetition of the catastrophe. In a recent meeting of engineers in a local club it was revealed that hardly anything has been done to prevent occurrence of future floods. The so called dredging of the River and the flood channel through a Kolkata based firm is a scandal. Neither there has been extensive dredging as per norms and requirements all along the River especially wherever it is technically required nor any steps have been taken to strengthen the embankments all along the Capital city. Come September and we may be once again devastated! One cannot fight nature. One has to respect it and live in harmony with it. With certain preventive measures taken sincerely one can harmonise with nature. Unfortunately, both the rulers and the people seem to be doing the reverse! In such circumstances, one can only keep fingers crossed and pray for God’s mercy!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired), Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir


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