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Jhelum hits historic low, triggering drinking water shortage in Valley

 Jhelum hits historic low, triggering drinking water shortage in Valley

Suhail Bhat

Srinagar. Sept 20: As the Jhelum River reaches record-low water levels in the Valley, the water supply schemes that depend on it are grappling with a severe shortage, causing drinking water crisis.

Officials from the Irrigation and Flood Control Department said that the water level of the Jhelum has plummeted to its lowest point in the last 30 years this September, with a shocking measurement of 0.09 recorded at the Sangam gauge on September 14 – the lowest in 70 years.

“The primary reason behind the decrease in water level is a drop in precipitation,” stated one official. This stark reality highlights the alarming rainfall deficiency, with only 20mm of precipitation received, leaving a staggering 55mm deficiency compared to the average September rainfall of 75mm.

Additionally, temperatures have surged 5 degrees Celsius above the normal, causing extensive damage to crops. “The Valley has been grappling with an unrelenting heat wave this September, experiencing the second-highest maximum temperature on September 12th ever recorded in September since 1891, when the local weather observatory was established,” explained a meteorological official.

The decline in water levels has rendered all water supply schemes on the Jhelum nonfunctional, resulting in a severe shortage of water supply in many areas of the Valley. The worst-hit areas are those falling within the stretch from Sangam to Bandipora, where the decline in water level has led to a drinking water shortage.

For instance, numerous areas within Baramulla, including the main town, Khujbagh, Jetty, Sherwani colony, Singabgh, and Monga colony, are grappling with severe water scarcity, leaving a significant portion of the population without access to safe drinking water.

”We are enduring immense difficulties in accessing drinking water. It has become a daily struggle even to wash or bathe, and it seems that the administration is not taking our concerns seriously,” expressed one resident.

Acknowledging the impact of the drop in water level, Chief Engineer of the Jal Shakti Department, Sanjeev Malhotra, told Excelsior that they have devised ways to minimise the crisis’s impact.

Since the water level is low, leaving the pumps with almost nothing to uplift, we have made adjustments to the river bed to ensure water flow to the pumps, which is then lifted for distribution,” he explained, adding that the areas at the tail end of the river are particularly affected.

He urged people to make judicious use of water and mentioned that water tankers are available for the worst-affected areas. He also advised against using drinking water for kitchen gardens.

The drop in water level has also rendered nearly 70 percent of irrigation pumps on the Jhelum non-functional, affecting crops like apples that require water before harvest to attain an appropriate size and shape.

However, Chief Engineer of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Naresh Kumar, told Excelsior that the drop in water level has had minimal impact on crops as it occurred after the end of the irrigation season. “The water level is low, but there is no need to worry since the irrigation season and flood time are over,” he said.

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