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Less snowfall, prolonged dry spell in winter could lead to acute water shortages in summer: Experts

 Less snowfall, prolonged dry spell in winter could lead to acute water shortages in summer: Experts

Warn of potential impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and livelihoods in Kashmir

Jahangeer Ganaie

Srinagar, Jan 08 (KNO): As Kashmir witnesses less snowfall during winter and prolonged dry spells, experts warn of potential water shortages in the summer, saying this could lead to low water levels in the valley's water bodies.

Speaking with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), renowned glaciologist, climate change researcher, and earth scientist, Professor Shakil A Romshoo, expressed concern about the below-average snowfall this winter and the extended dry spell in autumn and winter.

This might lead to water shortages during summer, which will not be sufficient to meet the requirements of water-intensive paddy culture in Kashmir, he said.

“However, it is too early to predict snowfall or rainfall during February, March and April which are normally very wet and bring about 40 percent of rain and snow in the region. Let us hope to have good rain and snow during these months,” Prof Romshoo added.

Acknowledging the significant contribution of water from snowmelts and glacier melts, Prof Shakil said if the dry spell prolongs and extends till February, which he termed “most unlikely,” the region could witness low water levels in our water bodies this summer.

Dr Suhaib A. Bandh, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science at S P College Srinagar told KNO that the impact of extended dry weather on Kashmir's water bodies is diverse and significant, which could result in a cascade of environmental concerns.

“Kashmir, renowned for its gorgeous lakes and rivers, is under significant stress as the dry spell continues. Reduced precipitation and faster evaporation rates cause a drop in water levels throughout bodies of water, worsening an already precarious ecological equilibrium,” he said.

Dr Bandh added that the reduced influx from melting snow aggravates the problem, affecting the region's hydrological cycle and water level declines endanger aquatic ecosystems, threatening the flora and wildlife that rely on these areas.

The decreased supply of water has implications for agriculture, he said, adding, “The depletion of historic lakes such as Dal Lake has ramifications for tourism and local economies.”

Dr Suhail said that water scarcity increases competition among diverse sectors for the limited resources available, potentially leading to water-related conflicts. “Sustainable water management approaches, effective irrigation techniques and conservation measures are critical in addressing these concerns. To ensure the resilience of Kashmir's water bodies in the face of changing climatic trends, collaborative efforts at the regional and local levels are required,” he said.

Dr Aamir Hussain Bhat, an Environmental Science lecturer in J&K's higher education department said dry weather in Kashmir significantly affects its water bodies, causing a multitude of challenges across the region.

“Diminished precipitation during extended dry spells drastically reduces the water levels in rivers, lakes, and streams that are the lifelines of Kashmir,” he said, adding that this decrease in water levels not only threatens the aquatic ecosystems but also imposes severe constraints on agriculture, a primary livelihood for many residents.

The drying up of water bodies leads to reduced irrigation capabilities, impacting crop yields and overall agricultural productivity, Dr Bhat said, adding that the shortage of water affects the availability of drinking water, escalating the risk of waterborne diseases and creating hardships for the local populace.

He said the ecological balance is disrupted as the shrinking water bodies struggle to support diverse flora and fauna, endangering the region's biodiversity.

“The societal and economic ramifications of the prolonged dry weather underscore the urgent need for sustainable water management strategies, conservation efforts, efficient irrigation practices and diversification of livelihoods to mitigate the adverse effects on Kashmir's water bodies and the community dependent on them,” Dr Aami added.

Dr Tariq Rasool, a senior scientist at SKAUST said, “Snowfall during winter doesn't only act as a source of rain for the latter days in summer, it also recharges the groundwater. So, dry winters surely affect the water table during summers.”—(KNO)

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