The unprecedented weather changes especially sudden rise and fall in temperatures and unusual increase/decrease in precipitation are indictors of the global climate change presently happening in different parts of the world. In Kashmir we have had gradual climate change from early forties to recent past. During our childhood when we were young kids in school, the winters used to be very severe. I remember spending part of my holidays in the maternal home in Safakadal where the snow would fall up to first floor windows and we would go out of the window on to the road. There used to be huge icicles hanging from the roofs which those days were mostly wooden with either shingle or in some cases earth with all kinds of flowers growing over it. I remember sometimes the snow would be so heavy and fast that total darkness would descend in the day. One could see nothing except falling snowflakes. Those days sometimes migratory birds such as flying geese would fall in our lawns as these would be blinded by the heavy snowfall. There were also many incidents of wild animals descending into some localities of the city especially in those ones which were on the periphery next to forests. Now there are no forests in the vicinity of the city.
The winters in Gulmarg where I spent ten years were like something out of the famous fairy tale of the Snow-white. This was not in a too distant past. I am talking of late seventies. We used to get more than 15 feet of snow. The hut in which I used to stay would many times get buried and I would have to make a passage to go down into the hut. The snow on the roof and the sides would be almost joined and we would ski over the hut! It was a huge task for the snow clearance machines to keep Tangmarg-Gulmarg road clear and the people manning these would be working throughout the night to ensure through traffic. There used to be multicolour poles on the two sides of the road to allow the clearance people to know the extent of the road usually buried under 8 to 10 feet of snow. Few years back, that snow was totally missing in Gulmarg. However, this year it has been an anti-climax. The winters of those good old days seem to be coming back. That is the real climate change!
What has brought about some of these drastic changes? No doubt there are global factors responsible for this phenomenon but we too have generously contributed in hastening the destruction of our environment. We have mercilessly cut down our lush green forests. In some of the places young trees have been cut like a field of maize leaving only the stalks. There are no forests in the vicinity of urban areas as the urbanisation has gone up like a mad race. Hundreds of thousands of houses have been constructed at the cost of losing paddy fields and forests. The increase in the number of vehicles has gone up in geometric progression. Compared to 45 or so vehicles in Srinagar in late forties, we now have over two hundred thousand vehicles. The whole valley has over one million vehicles of all types. Imagine the amount of emissions from these. Add to this the smoke and gases from hundreds of brick kilns running round the clock to cater for the mad construction activity. In rude language we are practically “raping” our own fragile and delicate environment. We do not have to look for causes globally but internally within our own state.
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. People have to be made aware of the drastic effects of this climate change. Both the Civil Society and the leaders of all hues and shades; political, religious, and social have to mobilize to initiate preventive measures to protect the environment. Global “Climate Change” may be a “Myth” or a “Hoax” for some but for us it is a stark reality unfolding itself slowly but destructively. The most unfortunate part is that the change is irreversible. However, it can be slowed down. There are two important rather life-saving steps which need to be taken on war footing. Increasing the green areas and reclaiming our water bodies.
Incidentally, the Chinese have successfully converted the Kubuki desert into a green area. Similarly, a part of the Great Sahara desert has been turned into a green area. There are many similar projects in the Middle East for greening the desert sands. Kashmir luckily had vast green areas but we have deliberately destroyed a part of these. We need to start a concerted project for greening the barren areas and protecting our lush green forests. It needs massive public support something like Bahugna’s Chipko Movement. The other part is saving our water bodies and reclaiming the lost ones. It is not difficult to do such voluntary projects provided the people have a will and the popular leaders lead these movements. Kashmir University has taken a lead in greening its campus. This needs to be followed by all educational institutions. We may not be able to halt the global climate change but we can dilute its effects to a great extent in our area. Let us hope some of our leaders do take this positive initiative.