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Kashmir glaciers: Time to act is now

Ziraat Times Editorial

The state of glaciers in Kashmir is alarming. Climate change, coupled with unplanned development and pollution, is causing glaciers to melt at an unprecedented rate. According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, glaciers in the region have lost mass at an average rate of 35 centimeters per year between 2000 and 2012. This is significantly higher than the global average of 19 centimeters per year. According to a report published in ziraat Times, Jammu & Kashmir has lost nearly 30% of its glaciers in the past 60 years, and 70% of them may vanish by the end of this century if the prevailing pace continues.

The melting of glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir is having a number of negative impacts. Glaciers are the main source of water for the Jhelum, Chenab, Tawi, Sindh, Lidder, Veshaw and other rivers and tributaries, which provide drinking water and irrigation for millions of people in the region. The melting of glaciers is reducing the amount of water available in these rivers, which could lead to water scarcity in Jammu & Kashmir in the future, something that is already happening in several areas.

The rapid melting of glaciers is also leading to more frequent and severe floods and flash floods and drought conditions in some areas of Kashmir. This is because glaciers act as natural reservoirs, storing water during the winter and releasing it slowly during the summer. When glaciers melt more quickly, there is more water runoff during the spring, which now often lead to flooding in many areas of Jammu and Kashmir. However, once the glaciers have melted, there is less water available during the summer, which now creates drought situations as well. Glaciers also provide habitat for a variety of unique plants and animals. As glaciers melt, these species are losing their habitat and are at risk of extinction. Moreover, glaciers are a major tourist attraction in Jammu and Kashmir.

Even as the government of Jammu and Kashmir has been taking a few steps to address the melting of glaciers, however, more needs to be done to protect glaciers in Jammu and Kashmir. The central government should also take more proactive steps to address this challenge.

At J&K level, we need to develop and implement a comprehensive glacier protection plan. This plan should include measures to reduce pollution, manage development in glacier-fed areas, and monitor and assess glacier health. J&K also needs to Invest in water conservation and efficiency measures. This could include rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, and wastewater recycling. Besides promoting sustainable agriculture and forestry practices, J&K also needs to increase public awareness about climate change and the importance of glacier protection. At the national level, considering J&K’s ecological sensitivity, there has to be more investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Similarly, more support is needed in research and development on glacier protection and climate change adaptation.

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