Water and Climate Change

We need to carve out a strategy to address our water issues so that scientific water management is observed in all our plans
Water level rises during incessant rainfall in Jhelum at Srinagar. [File]
Water level rises during incessant rainfall in Jhelum at Srinagar. [File]Mubashir Khan/ GK

Water resources are important to both society and ecosystems. We depend on a clean supply of drinking water to sustain our health. We also need water for agriculture, energy production, recreation, and manufacturing and host of almost all life activities on this planet.

However Climate Change is likely to impact freshwater resource availability and thereby disturbing hydrological cycle, which may affect the spatial and temporal distribution of runoff, soil moisture, and ground water reserve and may increase droughts and floods. In J&K, increased water demand due to urbanization, agriculture expansion, increasing population, rapid industrialization and economic development has already put pressure on water and climate change is likely to exacerbate it. The impacts of climate change on water availability and water quality will affect many sectors, including energy production, infrastructure, human health, agriculture, and ecosystems.

The water cycle is a delicate balance of precipitation & evaporation. These days amount of rain falling during storms and high winds which are so prevalent now in Kashmir, provide evidence that the water cycle is already changing.

As temperatures rise, people and animals need more water to maintain their health and thrive. Many important economic activities, like producing electricity at power plants, raising livestock, and growing food crops also require water. The amount of water available for these activities may be reduced as Earth warms and if competition for water resources increases.

The relationship between water, energy, agriculture and climate is as important as it is complex. Over time, the effects of global warming due to the human-generated build-up of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere have become more evident. In 2017, major GHGs, like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide hit record levels. Lockdown during Covid pandemic has not impacted the GHGs to a large extent due to the transport of health related equipment, oxygen supply and PPEs. In fact the Plastic waste which include PPEs, used Syringes, injection vials, E waste has increased manifold in the environment during current pandemic and it has found its way into water bodies directly along with other materials which has severely impacted the water quality. This will have long term ill effects on our health.

J&K is bestowed with umpteen water bodies and water resources and most of the water-bodies receive supply from mountain range, therefore, loss of glacial mass due to global warming will have a serious effect on our climate and might reduce the water availability impacting hydro power potential and lower availability of water for irrigation impacting the agrarian economy. This will affect our economy and agriculture produce, domestic water supply and health.

The three distinct river basins namely Chenab, Jhelum and Indus River are donning J&K apart from water bodies, wetlands, tributaries, lakes and rivers. The water flowing in the Himalayan rivers receives water from rain, snow and glaciers, make these rivers perennial where heavy monsoon rainfall contribute to the bulk of water in these basins which are used for irrigation and Hydro-power generation. The Indus River originates at the confluence of the Sind river and the Gar river which is Mansarovar lake in Tibet at an elevation of 518 meters, and enters India through South-eastern corner of J&K .

River Jhelum originates from Verinag spring in Anantnag and after passing through Srinagar it drains into Wular lake and then passing through Baramula and Uri it flows towards Pakistan. The total geographical area of Jhelum basin up to Indo-Pakistan border is about 34,755 sq. km. The total catchment area up to the ceasefire line is about 17,622 sq. km, spreads in seven districts namely Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, and Poonch. The Lidder River is the biggest tributary of Jhelum and is fed by a large number of glaciers. Jhelum is joined by many small streams like Vishow, Rambiara, Sandran, Aripat, Romeshi, etc .

Chenab River is the merging of the two Himalayan Rivers,viz: Chandra River and Bhaga River at Tandi located in upper Himalayas. It enters the plains of Jammu and then enters into Pakistan. The Salal, Dulhasiti , Sawalkot and Baglihar ,Rattle Hydel projects have been constructed over it. River Kishan Ganga is in Drass (Kargil) in the inner Himalayas. After passing through the mountain tracks of Gurez, Keran and Karnah it joins Jhelum at Doemel.

Tawi River Originating from Kailashkund spring at Soej hills in Bhaderwath, Tawi passes through Jammu and joins Chenab in Ranbir Singh Pura and then enter Pakistan.

River Ravi is a trans-boundary river flowing through North-western India and North Eastern Pakistan. The river drains a total catchment area of 14,442 sq. km in India after flowing for a length of 720 km..

The Indus system comprises three eastern rivers namely the Sutlej, the Beas, the Ravi and three western rivers namely the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. Under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960, the waters of eastern rivers are allocated to India and those of western rivers to Pakistan except specified uses by India mostly in J&K.

We need to carve out a strategy to address our water issues so that scientific water management is observed in all our plans.

We need to plan comprehensively and create a portal for data generation so that all future plans are based on concrete scientific evidence and data.

Assessment of the water resources is the first step in understanding the water resources. This is essential to assess all water resource related activities such as efficient management of the resources, planning of the water resource for future use, readjustment of water use plans considering the changed supplies and demands etc. Baseline assessment should revolve round, hydrological study to enhance natural water availability in the basin/region/ area; • Monitoring of Ground water level and quality • Estimation of surface runoff and Evapotranspiration • Spatial Distribution and Seasonal Variability of precipitation and number of dry days • Monitoring of stream level and flow •

Undertaking study on Glaciology, Snow Hydrology, River hydrology and sedimentation .Promoting and implementing water use efficiency measures.

Mandating water audit across industrial and commercial sector to benchmark unit wise water usage and enforcing adoption of water conservation measures. • Introduction of water metering system across domestic, industrial and commercial sector to ensure judicious usage of water. • Creating awareness among the farmer groups towards judicious use of water and promoting sprinkler/ drip irrigation systems and lowering evapotranspiration. Farmers should also be trained for computing water requirements of crops and build capacity towards applying just as much needed and not irrigate randomly. Promoting System of crop intensification and achieving water use efficiency across agriculture sector. • Water recycling and reuse • Canals should be ensured free from seepages.

The total water balance, its basins, sub-basins, areas, etc. depicting the quantified hydraulic cycle is the main tool for understanding the water situation. Water budgeting should be based on this hydraulic cycle and interaction between rain water, surface water, ground water, evaporation etc. It is therefore essential that water budgeting be carried out to chalk out efficient planning.

Formulate comprehensive rejuvenation plan for Dal Lake, Mansar/Surinsar Lake, Manasbal Lake and all other major lakes will help in better water management. Separate implementing agency with scientific capacity building is required for lake management. . These water bodies are essential sources of surface water which suffice for the domestic and drinking water requirement. Moreover these lakes are also main areas of tourist attraction. Shrinkage and deterioration of the lakes and water qualities along with encroachment and choking of drainage system might render us with water scarcity.

The artificial recharge is another scientific tool where such action for ground water aims at augmentation of ground water reservoir by modifying the natural movement of surface water utilizing suitable civil construction techniques. Artificial recharging helps to enhance the sustainable yield in areas where over-development has depleted the Aquifer, Conservation and storage of excess surface water for future requirements improve the quality of existing ground water.

Need of the hour is to Building climate change resilience through water management and ecosystems to arrest changes in the water cycle.Climate change impacts have direct consequences for water security and conflict. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, climate change adaptation will have to build climate resilience. Climate resilience is strengthened through healthy ecosystem services that rely on well-functioning river basins. Effective country-driven climate change adaptation should reflect the importance of water management in reducing vulnerability and building climate resilience.

In J&K rain water harvesting needs to be an inbuilt part of building plans issued by the municipal authorities as is the concept of green building.Water audit is also very important due to the potential of J&K in renewable green hydro power energy .

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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