For the second consecutive year, Jammu and Kashmir is receiving lesser snowfall during winter compared to earlier years thereby affecting the Valley’s fruit industry and migration of birds.
Experts say it is rare for Kashmir to receive such low quantity of snowfall with negligible precipitation in the plains. According to meteorological data, the Valley for the 13th time since 1901 witnessed a rare dry January. Chillai Kalan, the 40-day coldest period in Kashmir’s winter also failed to provide any major snowfall.
January 23 this year witnessed a record maximum temperature of 14.1 degree Celsius — the highest in the past five years. The average mercury has already gone above 15 degree Celsius this month and MeT department officials say the dry weather may continue till the end of this month.
“The new pattern of snowfall and rainfall is not unusual but rare. January has remained dry before too and it would be 13th time the Valley has witnessed less than 15mm snowfall during the month. Winter temperature has increased and there is less snow now,” Director Meteorology, Sonam Lotus said.
The unprecedented precipitation has caused a worry among those associated with the fruit industry and allied agro-based economic sectors. Fruit growers say the warmer weather may lead to premature flowering in the plants causing quality damage to the fruit.
“When there is no snowfall on the mountains, it is naturally going to affect the water level in the plains. It causes both qualitative and quantitative loss. Last year due to untimely rains we witnessed 30 percent loss in the demand of apples,” said Basheer Ahmad Basheer, President, Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers and Dealers Union.
J&K government’s own economic survey has termed climate change as a “domicile’s sword” hanging over agriculture. Over 50 percent of the apples produced in the valley are of low grade because of the reduced snowfall or heavy untimely rains and hail.
Director Agriculture Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi, however, said the changing weather has not had much impact on the crop production in Valley. “In the long run it could affect the agriculture output of the valley,” he said, adding that the main source of water in Kashmir are glaciers. “When snowfall is less, it is naturally going to affect us.”
The warmer weather conditions have also affected bird migration in the Valley. Lakhs of birds are known to migrate to Jammu and Kashmir in winter.
Officials in the wetland division of the wildlife department said the climate change has also brought down the number of migratory birds.
“There seems to be an effect on the population of the avain vistors and we have found some indication of their decline in number,” Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, Wetland Warden, Hokersar said.