Anantnag, June 6: The Kolahoi, Kashmir’s biggest glacier, according to experts is receding at a fast pace posing a major threat of environmental disaster.
The glacier located in the environmental north western Himalayan range situated 26 kilometers north from Pahalgam and 16 kilometers south from Sonamarg is one of the major sources of Lidder stream, a major tributary of river Jehlum. Its water mainly irrigates the agricultural land and serves as a drinking water source to south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
Named after Kolahoi peak, the glacier lies at an average of 4700 meters. “Over the years we have been observing that the thickness of the glacier has gone down. The rocks and the crevasse which earlier were rare can now be clearly found there,” said Mehmood Ahmad Shah, former director Tourism Department, Kashmir.
Shah himself a trekker and mountaineer has mounted a number of peaks and has been to many glaciers. He attributed global warming and depleting forest cover as the major reason for the retreating of glaciers.
“The major manifestations of global warming are quite evident everywhere. However, it is more pronounced in Kashmir,” Shah said.
He said fiddling with the ecologically fragile environment has aggravated the things. “The tremendous amount of pressure on mountains and forests has been a major reason for ecological imbalance and hence disasters,” Shah said.
He said there has been a depletion of forests cover over the years. “We would export the timber, but now the time has come when we are importing it from Europe,” Shah said while emphasizing on afforestation.
He said encouraging rotational grazing can also help in reducing pressure on mountains.
An avid trekker, Riyaz Ahmad Lone says that many small glaciers around Sheshnag have also receded drastically. “A Kanital glacier which is a major source of water for Warwan stream (Nallah) in Chenab valley has also retreated,” Lone said.
Another environmentalist cites the haphazard constructions in the ecologically fragile zones and on river banks as one of the reasons for the disaster. “What we have been observing is that most of the Jehlum tributaries- Lidder (Pahalgam), Vaishaw (Kulgam), Rambiara (Shopian), Sandran ( Qazigund), Brengi (Kokernag), Tongri (Pulwama-Shopian), Yeth Yathur (Verinag), Aaripat (Shangus), Romshi Nallah (Pulwama) and others over the years have been changing the course, which is quite a natural phenomenon. However, the concrete structures which have come up on its banks can be a major reason for (possible) disaster,” he said while citing the commercial structures which have come up right on the Lidder banks in Pahalgam.
“A slight imbalance- cloud or glacier burst can turn situation ugly,” the environmentalist said. “He said the raising of structures within the 500 meters radius of rivers should be discouraged.
In Pahalgam, many lives have been lost over the decades in the cloud bursts, the major ones reported to have occurred in 1962 near Nunwan hillock (50 deaths) and another in the 1980s. In 1996 the Lidder river roared due to cloud bursts resulting in major floods.
The cloud burst that occurred in Vaishaw Nallah, originating from Kusarnag lake in Aharbal, Kulgam became the major cause of the deluge in September 2014.