Table of Contents
Mankind has been facing natural catastrophes like floods, earthquakes, storms. cyclones, tsunamis, etc. Global warming, however, is a manmade catastrophe. The devastating effects it causes have already become evident. This chapter helps us understand what global warming means and how it can change the face of the earth.
Global Warming and the Himalayan Region
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. In the last hundred years, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C. One of the major reasons is the increasing amount of greenhouse gases.
An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation. Warming is strongest in the Arctic and causes retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other effects are the frequent occurrence of heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, species extinction, etc.
The Himalayan region has many glaciers and is called the Water Tower of Asia. Glaciers from this region give rise to many rivers which support economy and the livelihood of people in several countries. But global warming might change all of this.
Today, places as cold as Kashmir are experiencing the impact of global warming. Jammu and Kashmir has more than 6% of its land area under freshwater ecosystems like subtropical lakes, floodplain lakes, high altitude Himalayan Lakes, perennial rivers, wetlands, etc.
Glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir are receding at an alarming rate. The reduction in snowfall together with the fast-receding glaciers has resulted in water shortage for irrigation and hydropower generation. Frequency of flooding has also increased. Combined with unplanned urbanization, the situation is alarming. Most of the wetlands that used to prevent flooding are being converted into concrete landscape.
The Effects of Global Warming on Jammu and Kashmir
Global warming also causes high velocity storms in the valley which have destroyed crops and fruits, affecting the livelihood of many people. Kashmir has seen drastic change in precipitation as well as seasonal changes.
The demarcation between seasons has vanished. It is now difficult to distinguish between spring and summer, or between autumn and winter. The icicles were a common sight in Kashmir but now they are seen only at higher altitudes.
Major lakes, like the Dal and the Wular, have shrunk considerably, and many smaller water bodies and seasonal ponds have completely disappeared. Most of the wetlands have less biodiversity. The migratory birds have changed their cycle. While some of them stay here even during summer, others do not return even in winters.
Rapid melting of the Kolhai glacier, one of the largest glaciers of the Kashmir Himalayas, has raised concern among environmentalists. Kolhai has shrunk due to increase in temperature caused by pollution.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has selected the Kolhai glacier in the West Liddar valley as one of the index glaciers for long-term monitoring. Scientific studies on the glacier will last for five years after which TERI will recommend measures to bring down the glacier’s recession rate.
Several small glaciers have disappeared completely in some areas and the thickness of glaciers has reduced, while most of the springs that are fed by the glaciers in the Valley have also dried up. Climate change has an impact not only on the environment but also on society and economy. Humans have been largely responsible for climate change.
Climate change impacts different sectors in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Erratic snowfall, hotter summers, climate variability and change of both precipitation and temperature will affect livelihoods.
Understanding climate change impacts on water resources is important for water resources planning, hydropower development and protection against flooding. This will help us secure life on the Earth for our future generations. As the custodians of the Water Tower of Asia, we cannot sit idle. We need to work on the development of a strong strategy for the sustainable development of water resources in the region.
We must work effectively to combat global warming. Global warming is drastically affecting the earth, harming the planet and all life on it. This is especially evident in the Kashmir valley. We must try to raise awareness about this manmade catastrophe and take the necessary steps to stop it. Only then can we secure our beautiful planet for future generations.