The unprecedented weather changes especially sudden rise andfall in temperatures and unusual increase/decrease in precipitation areindictors of the global climate change presently happening in different partsof the world. In Kashmir we have had gradual climate change from early fortiesto recent past. During our childhood when we were young kids in school, thewinters used to be very severe. I remember spending part of my holidays in thematernal home in Safakadal where the snow would fall up to first floor windowsand we would go out of the window on to the road. There used to be huge icicleshanging from the roofs which those days were mostly wooden with either shingleor in some cases earth with all kinds of flowers growing over it. I remembersometimes the snow would be so heavy and fast that total darkness would descendin the day. One could see nothing except falling snowflakes. Those dayssometimes migratory birds such as flying geese would fall in our lawns as thesewould be blinded by the heavy snowfall. There were also many incidents of wildanimals descending into some localities of the city especially in those oneswhich were on the periphery next to forests. Now there are no forests in thevicinity of the city.
The winters in Gulmarg where I spent ten years were likesomething out of the famous fairy tale of the Snow-white. This was not in a toodistant past. I am talking of late seventies. We used to get more than 15 feetof snow. The hut in which I used to stay would many times get buried and Iwould have to make a passage to go down into the hut. The snow on the roof andthe sides would be almost joined and we would ski over the hut! It was a hugetask for the snow clearance machines to keep Tangmarg-Gulmarg road clear andthe people manning these would be working throughout the night to ensurethrough traffic. There used to be multicolour poles on the two sides of theroad to allow the clearance people to know the extent of the road usuallyburied under 8 to 10 feet of snow. Few years back, that snow was totallymissing in Gulmarg. However, this year it has been an anti-climax. The wintersof those good old days seem to be coming back. That is the real climate change!
What has brought about some of these drastic changes? Nodoubt there are global factors responsible for this phenomenon but we too havegenerously contributed in hastening the destruction of our environment. We havemercilessly cut down our lush green forests. In some of the places young treeshave been cut like a field of maize leaving only the stalks. There are noforests in the vicinity of urban areas as the urbanisation has gone up like amad race. Hundreds of thousands of houses have been constructed at the cost oflosing paddy fields and forests. The increase in the number of vehicles hasgone up in geometric progression. Compared to 45 or so vehicles in Srinagar inlate forties, we now have over two hundred thousand vehicles. The whole valleyhas over one million vehicles of all types. Imagine the amount of emissionsfrom these. Add to this the smoke and gases from hundreds of brick kilnsrunning round the clock to cater for the mad construction activity. In rudelanguage 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! Thelast devastating flood of 2014 which is supposed to have occurred almost aftera century still gives nightmares to the people. This is especially so becausethe concerned authorities reportedly have done nothing to ensure that there isno repetition of the catastrophe. People have to be made aware of the drasticeffects of this climate change. Both the Civil Society and the leaders of allhues and shades; political, religious, and social have to mobilize to initiatepreventive measures to protect the environment. Global "Climate Change" may bea "Myth" or a "Hoax" for some but for us it is a stark reality unfolding itselfslowly but destructively. The most unfortunate part is that the change isirreversible. However, it can be slowed down. There are two important ratherlife-saving steps which need to be taken on war footing. Increasing the greenareas and reclaiming our water bodies.
Incidentally, the Chinese have successfully converted theKubuki desert into a green area. Similarly, a part of the Great Sahara deserthas been turned into a green area. There are many similar projects in theMiddle East for greening the desert sands. Kashmir luckily had vast green areasbut we have deliberately destroyed a part of these. We need to start aconcerted project for greening the barren areas and protecting our lush greenforests. It needs massive public support something like Bahugna's ChipkoMovement. The other part is saving our water bodies and reclaiming the lostones. It is not difficult to do such voluntary projects provided the peoplehave a will and the popular leaders lead these movements. Kashmir Universityhas taken a lead in greening its campus. This needs to be followed by alleducational institutions. We may not be able to halt the global climate changebut we can dilute its effects to a great extent in our area. Let us hope someof our leaders do take this positive initiative.