Bhaderwah: Unseasonal snowfall in the higher reaches of Chenab Valley has left hundreds of nomadic families in distress as they are compelled to halt their onward journey along with their livestock.
Cold wave conditions have engulfed the upper reaches of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, triggering panic among the nomads who have started their bi-annual migration from the plains in the Union Territory and Punjab.
Officials said fresh snowfall was reported in Kailash Mountain Range, Kainthi, Padri Gali, Bhaal Padri, Seoj, Shankh Padar, Rishi Dal, Gau-Peeda, Gan-Thak, Khanni-top, Guldanda, Chattar Galla and Asha Pati Glacier surrounding Bhaderwah valley since Monday night.
The unseasonal snowfall was also reported from Braid Bal, Nehyed Chilly, Sharonth Dhar, Katardhar, Kainthi, Laloo Paani, Kaljugasar, Duggan Top, Goha and Sinthan Top besides the high altitude meadows of Gandoh.
These high altitude and vast grazing meadows remain inhabited by the Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes during summers.
Due to unseasonal snowfall and severe cold conditions, hundreds of tribal families have been stuck either on the road sides or on the lower reaches at different parts of Chenab Valley, an official said.
"We are stuck with our sheep and goats in the open on the road sides without food and fodder and are compelled to survive under open sky," Bashir Bau (69), who belongs to the nomadic Gujjar community, said at Guldanda on Bhaderwah-Pathankot highway.
Hailing from Lakhanpur in Kathua district, Bau claimed that he lost nearly 15 lambs and goats over the past few days due to intense cold.
"We are in a fix and unable to decide whether to stay back or go ahead," he said.
Sain Mohammad of Kathua's Basohli said they were heading towards Padri meadow with their cattle when they were caught in the inclement weather and forced to stay back at Sarthal.
“We are finding it extremely difficult to arrange fodder for our animals. If the weather shows no improvement, we will have to face huge losses,” he said.
According to the 2011 census, high altitude meadows of Chenab Valley, which spread from Bhaderwah to Jawahar tunnel (Banihal) and Marmat (Doda) to Paddar and Marwah (Kishtwar), house 30,000 nomads and lakhs of their cattle, including sheep, goats, buffaloes, horses and mules during summer months.
However, some tribal organisations claim that the number of the nomadic population has increased to more than one lakh.
“We are heading for a major crisis and the government agencies need to come forward for our rescue,” General Secretary, Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Gojri Adab, Jan Mohd Hakeem said.
Hakeem said over one lakh Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes move towards the high-altitude meadows and vast grazing fields of Chenab valley every year during summers from the plains of Jammu, Kathua, Samba in Jammu and Kashmir, and Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Hoshiarpur districts in Punjab.
The meteorological department has predicted improvement in the overall weather conditions from Wednesday morning.