An ecological disaster is unfolding in the Kashmir Valley with the Jhelum River showing signs of drying up, as water levels dropped to a minus mark for the first time in 61 years.
Jhelum is the lifeline of Kashmir, and the main feeding channel for power generation, irrigation and potable water supply. No rains, no snowfall and persistent dry weather have created a peculiar situation in the Valley.
“This has been the lowest water level in Jhelum since we started maintaining record in 1955,” said MA Zargar, Nodal Officer of Irrigation and Flood Control department, Kashmir.
As per official figures, water level at the Sangam gauge has been recorded at minus 0.55 feet. Similarly, the water level at Ram Munshi Bagh and Asham gauges has been recorded at 2.6 feet and 2.5 feet respectively. Water level in the Wullar Lake has been recorded at 15.73 metres, which is four inches below normal.
Jhelum originates from Verinag of south Kashmir and flows through Srinagar to north Kashmir before entering into the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Jhelum releases its water into Wular Lake before it takes the route towards the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir via Sopore, Baramulla and Uri.
“Dry spell and climate changes are the main reasons for the drop in the water level in the Jhelum. Usually water levels remain at normal level in the summer. Due to dry spell and with no rain occurring, the situation has reached to this pass”, said Zargar.
For the first time in the last 40 years a post-monsoon dry spell has hit the Kashmir valley, due to no rains or scant rainfall over the last five to six months. As per official figures, Kashmir received only 3.6 mm rainfall in October, November and December.
“This is against an average rainfall of 100 mm in these months,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, meteorologist at Meteorological Centre Kashmir.
Making matters worse is the green house emissions, and frequency and intensity of western disturbances that have changed the entire weather pattern.
“Lack of snow has already hit winter tourism in Kashmir. Rising pollution levels coupled with green house emissions is posing a major ecological challenge. If there is no rains or snow in the coming days, things could take a turn for worse,” said an official.
The drying of Jhelum has already led to many problems for the people reeling under sub zero temperature. Power supply has hit rock bottom with outrages ranging from 12 hours to 18 hours a day in some areas. Water supply too has been hit in some places.
Amid the gloom, the Meteorological Centre Kashmir has some good news for the people, as it predicts that western disturbance is likely to hit the Valley from January 4 brightening the chances of rain and snowfall. “The western disturbance is approaching the Valley and it may hit on January 4 to 6. There will be rains or snowfall in the valley from January 4. Intensity of the rainfall or snowfall will be higher on January 5,” said an MET spokesperson.